Become a Climate Reality Leader: Share the Truth About Climate Change and Inspire Action
With talks on a global climate deal in Paris on the horizon, the world’s been asking what the U.S. will do. After all, with the U.S. being both the world’s biggest economy and second biggest polluter, the direction it takes will go a long way to setting the tone for negotiations at COP21 in Paris. Go small or unrealistic, and we could be looking at another should’ve-would’ve-could’ve in December. Go big and achievable and we’ve got a shot at a strong deal that gets us heading in the right direction.
Last week, the U.S. government gave the answer, officially submitting its initial commitment for COP21. The commitment, known as an intended nationally determined contribution, or INDC, is the culmination of a long process including everything from a historic joint agreement with China to landmark policies at home.
What’s In the United States’ initial commitment for COP21?
As expected, the U.S. committed to:
- Reducing its greenhouse gas emissions 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025; and
- Accomplishing this goal with existing policies—notably the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Clean Power Plan and fuel economy standards for vehicles.
So what does the U.S. INDC mean for COP21, and how is it different from past pledges?
Some Background: What Is an INDC?
An INDC is a country’s plan for action on climate change. After each country submits its INDC (the ideal deadline is Oct. 1), the UN will analyze them as a group to assess their collective impact. Countries as a whole will then include these INDCs as part of the agreement signed at COP 21 in Paris. Once inscribed in the agreement, the INDC becomes a final, nationally determined contribution (NDC).
The important part of an INDC is that it is nationally determined. The idea is that every nation knows what it can do, so countries agreed that they would allow each other to put forward their best plan for the world to see.
For a developed country like the U.S., economy-wide, absolute emissions reductions are possible—and already happening. For developing countries that have only minimal responsibility for climate change and are working to boost their populations out of poverty, this might mean a different kind of commitment—like an “intensity” target that reduces emissions per unit of GDP growth.
INDCs aren’t limited to what a country does within its borders, either. Some may include actions to help the world adapt to the impacts of climate change. Some developed countries may commit to helping developing nations build resilience to climate impacts and reduce emissions.
Ideally, each INDC is ambitious in its targets, transparent in how it gets there, and represents a fair share of the nation’s responsibility for addressing climate change, based on its historical emissions and current capabilities.
How Did the U.S. Do?
The U.S. INDC represents the first time that the U.S. has committed to reducing carbon pollution based on real world targets with real world policies. This on its own is a very significant and positive step.
That said, there is more work to be done, and we have to keep pushing for stronger targets down the road. With renewable energy prices falling rapidly, it will soon be easier to make even deeper cuts in emissions.
We also have to keep pressing lawmakers to pass more permanent domestic legislation that would keep us on a path towards a sustainable future powered by renewable energy.
Finally, the U.S. is already providing tens of billions of dollars in disaster and resiliency finance to developing countries, in addition to the $3 billion committed to the Green Climate Fund in 2014. We have to ensure that any money put forward or mobilized by the U.S. is spent for its purpose.
Which is all to say that for a first step, the US INDC is a good one. Now it’s up to us to keep things moving forward.
How Will the U.S. INDC Affect Paris?
A strong agreement in Paris won’t happen without U.S. leadership. By submitting its INDC before March 31 and basing its commitments on existing policies, the U.S. has shown how serious it’s taking the process, encouraging others to follow suit. It also puts pressure on large emerging economies such as China and India to present their own plans with targets that represent the best of their respective capabilities.
What Can You Do to Help?
With the right pressure at home, negotiators can always raise their commitments to action before an INDC becomes a final NDC. For those of us in the U.S., it’s time to spread the word about what’s happening in Paris and build support for the steps the U.S. has already committed to—and support for going even further so we can all share a healthy and prosperous future.
What can you personally do? Building a powerful movement for change in Paris starts with spreading the word, and by becoming a Climate Reality Leader, you can learn how to share the truth about climate change and inspire action better than you ever thought possible.
Want to learn more? We’re holding an interactive webinar at 1 p.m. EDT, Tuesday, April 7: “Change Starts with You: Becoming a Climate Reality Leader.” The webinar will feature program director Mario Molina and several Climate Reality Leaders discussing what you can expect from the training and sharing stories of their work in the field.
Click here to register for the free webinar.
This week marks the official start of fall, but longer nights and colder days can make it harder to spend time outdoors. Luckily, there are several inspiring environmental films that can be streamed at home.
1. Kiss the Ground<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ccc5f0c92a5603e68aec39e56b0db02a"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/K3-V1j-zMZw?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: Netflix</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Sept. 22</strong></p><p>Between <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wildfires-california-washington-oregon-photos-2647585008.html" target="_self">wildfires devastating the U.S. West Coast</a> and <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tropical-storm-beta-landfall-2647760268.html" target="_self">storms battering the Gulf</a>, the impacts of the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/climate-change/" target="_self">climate crisis</a> can feel overwhelming right now. <em><a href="https://kissthegroundmovie.com/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Kiss the Ground</a> </em>offers an alternative to all of the bad news by focusing on solutions.</p><p>The film, directed by Josh and Rebecca Tickell and narrated by Woody Harrelson, explains how we can heal the Earth through "regenerative agriculture," farming practices that draw carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and into soil as a way to restore soil health, which in turn boosts ecosystems and food supplies.</p><p>"<em>Kiss the Ground </em>shows how feasible it is to make these changes at a grassroots level immediately and make a truly substantive impact with low cost and easy to implement solutions," Executive Producer RJ Jain said in an email. "This is why I got involved."</p>
2. Public Trust: The Fight for America's Public Lands<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5338f7a2931e356910026e5fd76fac56"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/jsKMTAaj_wQ?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: YouTube</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Sept. 25, 2 p.m. EDT </strong></p><p>This <a href="https://www.patagonia.com/films/public-trust/" target="_blank">award-winning documentary</a> tells the stories of Indigenous activists, journalists, whistleblowers and historians working to protect America's <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/public-lands" target="_self">public lands</a>. The film focuses on three political struggles: the shrinking of <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/bears-ears" target="_self">Bears Ears</a> National Monument in Utah, the mining of Boundary Waters Wilderness in Minnesota and the opening of the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/Arctic-National-Wildlife-Refuge" target="_self">Arctic National Wildlife Refuge</a> to fossil fuel exploration.</p><p><em>Public Trust</em> was directed by David Garrett Byars and produced by Jeremy Rubingh. Patagonia Films, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard and actor Robert Redford are executive producers. It will be <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGjnIG7puzY" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">released</a> on YouTube in time for <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/national-public-lands-day-2640656776.html" target="_self">National Public Lands Day</a>.</p><p>"Our country is fortunate to have millions of acres of public lands, including National Parks, Monuments, Wildlife Refuges and Wilderness set aside for future generations," Redford said. "Sadly, these lands that belong to you and me are under unprecedented threats from the greed of big corporations, eager to weaken restrictions in the pursuit of profits. Many of our current politicians are also to blame. <em>Public Trust</em> tells the story of citizens who are fighting back. It's a much-needed wake-up call for all of us who want to preserve our unique and wild cultural heritage."</p>
3. David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="156438a30836a765d7a92982545fc334"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/B_OFZvAd05Y?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: Netflix</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Oct. 4</strong></p><p>Beloved nature broadcaster <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/David-Attenborough" target="_self">David Attenborough</a> has spent his career introducing viewers to the wonders of our planet. In recent years, his footage of albatrosses swallowing <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/plastics" target="_self">plastic</a> in <em>Blue Planet II</em> has been credited with <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/2018-fighting-plastic-waste-2624606566.html" target="_self">helping to ramp up</a> the global fight against plastic pollution. Now, in this <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">World Wildlife Fund</a> (WWF)-produced <a href="https://www.attenborough.film/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">documentary</a>, he reflects on the defining moments of his career and the devastating changes he has witnessed.</p><p><em>David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet,</em> which was also produced by Silverback Films and directed by Alastair Fothergill, Jonnie Hughes and Keith Scholey, features an intimate conversation between Attenborough and Sir Michael Palin as the broadcaster reflects on his life and a career that took him to every continent on Earth. In addition to streaming on Netflix, the movie will be available in select theaters starting Sept. 28.</p><p>"For decades, David has brought the natural world to the homes of audiences worldwide, but there has never been a more significant moment for him to share his own story and reflections," WWF executive producer Colin Butfield said in a <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/updates/david-attenborough-life-our-planet" target="_blank">statement</a>. "This film coincides with a monumental year for environmental action as world leaders make critical decisions on nature and climate. It sends a powerful message from the most inspiring and celebrated naturalist of our time."</p>
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If all the glaciers and ice caps on the planet melted, global sea level would rise by about 230 feet. That amount of water would flood nearly every coastal city around the world [source: U.S. Geological Survey]. Rising temperatures, melting arctic ice, drought, desertification and other catastrophic effects of climate change are not examples of future troubles — they are reality today. Climate change isn't just about the environment; its effects touch every part of our lives, from the stability of our governments and economies to our health and where we live.
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