There was a lot happening today. There was Greta, a conversation between the United Nations Secretary-General and the International Space Station. There were protests. Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) were here to show their plans for setting science-based targets. Outside, the European Commission was showing plans for their Green New Deal. In the meantime, the negotiation grinded on.
You’re getting the story wrong — In a session on the climate emergency, youth leader Greta Thunberg said she wasn’t going to use punchy phrases like “Your house is on fire,” or “How dare you.” The problem, she said, was that people focus on lines like that, but not on important things, like the science. “We don’t have time to leave out the science.” She was struck by a profound lack of awareness by people everywhere about climate facts. She wondered how, when confronted by the shocking facts about the climate emergency, “could people react without the slightest panic.” She cautioned about various announcements that make it seem as though action is happening when it is really just public relations.
Ms. Thunberg was not alone. A veteran of many COPs, Jennifer Morgan, Executive Director of Greenpeace International, said that while she still believes that climate change is a solvable problem, she asked, “where are the leaders, the champions, the adults in the room?” “The heart of the Paris Agreement is still beating…but barely.”
More businesses using science-based targets — The UN Global Compact announced today that 177 companies have pledged to set highly ambitious emissions reduction targets to help limit the worst effects of climate change — more than doubling in size since the first group of early movers was announced at the UN Climate Action Summit in September. The new signatories have pledged to set climate targets that align with limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and reaching net-zero emissions by no later than 2050. These 177 companies collectively represent over 5.8 million employees, spanning 36 sectors and with headquarters in 36 countries. They have a combined market capitalization of over US$2.8 trillion and represent annual direct emissions equivalent to the annual total CO2 emissions of France.
A few more countries raise to raise ambition — Chilean COP President Carolina Schmidt announced today that the Climate Ambition Alliance, which was launched at the Climate Action Summit in New York, has grown to 83 nations that have either signaled their intention to submit an enhanced climate action plan (or Nationally Determined Contribution), or have started an internal process to boost ambition and have this reflected in their national plans by 2020, as established in the Paris Agreement. There are also 73 countries, 14 regions, 398 cities, 786 businesses and 16 investors are working towards achieving net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050.