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A Different Kind Of Climate Summit Comes To San Francisco

Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change of Canada, reacts during the launch of the 2050 Pathways Platform, at the COP22 climate change conference, in Marrakech, Morocco, Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016.
Associated Press
Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change of Canada, reacts during the launch of the 2050 Pathways Platform, at the COP22 climate change conference, in Marrakech, Morocco, Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016.
A Different Kind Of Climate Summit Comes To San Francisco
A Different Kind Of Climate Summit Comes To San Francisco GUEST: Ram Ramanathan, professor of climate sciences, UC San Diego

Our top story on Midday edition. Business and civic leaders from around the U.S. around the world are in San Francisco today to take part in the 2018 climate summit. Organizers are putting the phrase Think globally act locally to work in an effort to prevent the worst case scenarios of climate change. The aim is to get civic and business leaders involved. So the goals of the Paris climate agreement can be met even without the Trump administration's help. Among the attendees are San Diego scientists like UC San Diego Distinguished Professor of Climate Sciences Dr. Romm Romanov and who has helped shape the world's understanding of climate change. He spoke with midday Edition's senior producer Megan Burke what do you believe this summit has the potential to accomplish this summit particularly since the United States. California has a huge significance because you know that America is pulling out of. And now this summit is showing that there are many jurisdictions states and the US are stepping up the governor and find the one uncertainty because carbon neutral by 2040 by and if you ask me what's the significance of that if the rest of the world takes California building number and uses our technologies to cut down pollution the climate change significantly mitigate. So announcing the counseling cities and say to me is a huge symbolic thing. After all the national government can't policy from all citizens states which is a so and China is here. Many European nations are here. So California you know having the fifth or sixth largest economy is pulling its weight. How would you say this summit is different from others that have come before it. It is really different in the following sense. See the pie the summit the United Nations summit that's all about getting all 160 nations to feel that it's important that the home to them that is have to make so many compromises to make you know a whole world a and sign a paper here it is like mind states might find a city like mind the nation who all want to cut emissions and slow down climate change. So Im looking forward to a lot of announcements and action. Tarnak in an op ed you wrote for The Hill with your colleague David Victor Hughes you talked about the quote stark realities of climate science still loom large. Will you explain here what you mean when you say that the more the leaders lead the less relevant they become to the overall ledger of pollution. TIME The keep some degree or another to 12 years climate change may be in our living room we will be seeing a lot more frequent extreme events fires droughts floods so we have to take action. And you talked about this thing with David addicting. You know the more the condor population we become less relevant. Because you are cutting its mission. There are some local benefits but our emissions when the 1 percent we will experience the same catastrophes that are not we cut our emissions. So what we need to do is to make sure that the followers the rest of us states follow us. So the world for what more needs to be done to make it easier for others who may not have the resources to join in the effort. I think it involves sharing technologies sharing good practices sharing openness mechanisms in a collaborative Javelina California. Why so successful. We have companies willing to innovate. We have the brainpower in the farm off our universities and then we have fantastic governance mechanism. For example California as the source for veniam they know how to implement the policy and they know how to monitor people are compliant and these set emission standards for vehicle and we set standards for Wei and so all of the has to be shared. But I didn't want to imply that California is the one place in the planet doing that or comparable efforts taken in Sweden Germany most of the three living laboratories can think. And now all of this has been shattered because we are fighting for the common good. That was UC San Diego Distinguished Professor of Climate Sciences Dr. Rahme Ramanathan speaking to producer Megan Burke. Last night the U.N. led Climate and Clean Air Coalition recognized Romanoff and for his pioneering scientific work on short lived climate pollutants and for his advocacy for urgent action on global warming and air pollution.

The international effort to fight climate change is about to get injected with a bit of Hollywood flash, a lot of Wall Street green and a considerable dose of cheerleading rather than dry treaty negotiations.

Business leaders, mayors, governors and activists from around the world gather this week in San Francisco for the Global Climate Action Summit, where participants will trumpet what they've done and announce new efforts to slow a warming world.

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In addition, a smattering of celebrities such as musician Dave Matthews and actor Alec Baldwin will add a touch of red carpet feel to the summit, which starts Wednesday.

It will involve trillions of dollars of pledges for spending on cleaner energy and getting out of investments in heat-trapping fossil fuels, according to officials involved. And it will include a newer way of fighting climate change by emphasizing more climate-friendly land use, food production and diets, along with massive increases in forests — something one expert called "the forgotten climate solution." Cities, states, businesses and charitable foundations are all going to get in the act.

"It's a bit like a game show," said summit communications director Nick Nuttall. "It's going to be loads of Hollywood style announcements."

And when you are talking about shifting trillions of dollars to finance initiatives, the private sector needs to get involved and that's happening, said Nigel Purvis, chief executive officer of the non-profit Climate Advisers and a former climate negotiator in the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations.

"This is the climate action summit, emphasis on the action," Purvis said. "Despite the lack of leadership from Washington, it's really about action."

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But so far such pledges have produced more talk than action, said Angel Hsu, an environment professor at Yale University and the National University of Singapore. She is the lead author of a United Nations report released Monday on what businesses, states and local governments can do and already have done.

That report says businesses and lower levels of government have the potential to cut enough greenhouse gases emissions to keep global warming below the danger point of another 2 degrees Fahrenheit (nearly 1 degree Celsius) from now. However, the same report says so far, 8,000 pledges from those groups haven't accomplished much.

To keep from hitting that 2 degree mark, the world has to cut its expected annual emissions by nearly 15 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2030, including what's pledged in the 2015 Paris climate agreement. The businesses and states basically get about 4 percent there, according to Hsu.

"It's not much," she said. "We were actually shocked to find that the numbers were so low."

Hsu also looked at pledges made in 2002 in a South Africa conference and found that 65 percent of the pledges had no records showing they were acted upon.

This week's summit aims to create momentum for 2020 when world leaders return to the bargaining table to pledge even deeper cuts of heat-trapping emissions than set out in 2015, said Christiana Figueres, the former top United Nations climate official. She proposed this summit right after the Paris agreement was signed.

"This is sort of the real economy speaking for itself," Figueres said. She hopes the summit creates a "virtuous cycle" where businesses and states spur national governments to do better, which in turn spurs businesses again.

Pete Ogden, a former Obama climate and national security official and now a vice president at the United Nations Foundation, said "if Paris is going to work it needs to have that positive feedback loop."

Showing what people closer to the action can do and are doing to fight global warming will help global leaders pledge to do more when they gather in 2020, Ogden and Figueres said.

The key for Canada is phasing out coal — the dirtiest fossil fuel — by 2030, said Canadian environment minister Catherine McKenna.

"It's really important to showcase that the world is moving forward on climate action," McKenna said. "Everyone is acting on climate change not only because it is the right thing to do but also because there's a huge economic opportunity."

As the market gets on board on with climate friendly actions, she said, that makes "the billions flow into trillions."