Cities, companies ramp up climate goals

Regions and major cities committed to allowing only zeroemission vehicles on their roads

By AFP

SAN FRANCISCO • Zero fossil fuel energy, zero gas-guzzlers on the road, zero waste, zero carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions — dozens of cities, regions and companies made “zero” pledges last Thursday at a global climate summit in San Francisco.

The mayors, governors and CEOs from around the world have stepped into the climate breach with concrete action as UN talks to implement the Paris climate treaty falter, and President Donald Trump dismantles US policies to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Global warming, meanwhile, continues to gather pace: Major storms bearing down on the US eastern seaboard and the Philippines, and wildfires ravaging California, bear the unmistakable fingerprint of climate change, scientists said.

“This is real and we will take action even if Washington doesn’t,” said Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti (picture).

Jointly organised by California governor Jerry Brown and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, the three-day gathering is a showcase for initiatives, big and small, to reduce humanity’s carbon footprint.

Many centre on switching from cars and trucks powered by planet-warming fossil fuels to electric vehicles.

Last Thursday, dozens of states, regions and major cities committed to allowing only zero-emission cars, buses and trucks on their roads within a few decades.

Tokyo, Seoul and Rotterdam, meanwhile, joined Paris, London, Barcelona and Mexico City in vowing to run only electric buses by 2025.

Even a decade ago, such commitments would have seemed unthinkable, said Nicholas Stern, who heads the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment in London.

“Who would have thought that the heads of major car companies would all be agreeing that the era of the internal combustion engine is coming to an end,” he told AFP.

In the US, vehicle emissions are the single largest source of greenhouse gases.

Electricity grids around the world are also purging fossil fuel-based energy.

Brown signed legislation last week committing California — the fifth-largest economy in the world — to 100% clean electricity by 2045.

He also penned an executive order mandating net-zero carbon emissions throughout the state’s economy by 2045.

“That is the most ambitious goal of anywhere in the world,” he told AFP.

Brown had tough words for Trump, who yanked the US out of the landmark Paris Agreement and is trying to rescind California’s right to set its own vehicle emissions standard.

His actions “border not only on insanity, but on criminality,” he told journalists.

“Liar, criminal, fool — take your choice,” he added when asked what Trump’s environmental legacy would be.

Bloomberg, who leads the C40 climate-centred coalition of big city mayors, noted many of the policies affecting carbon pollution are local.

“In the US, the decisions that have the most influence over greenhouse gas emissions are not made by the federal government,” he said.