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Cities Hold the Key to Ensuring a Climate Safe World
Come December, all eyes will be on Paris for the COP21 climate negotiations, which will determine our post-2020 climate future. But what about the next five years?
New research released today from my organization—C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40)—and Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) shows that cities hold the key to ensuring we don't exceed the world's remaining safe carbon budget: in fact, urban policy decisions before 2020 could determine a third of the remaining global carbon budget that is not already "locked-in" by past decisions.
This is cause for great hope. Instead of leaving our global future to be determined by intricate international policy negotiations, we now know that mayors and local leaders in office today have the opportunity—and the responsibility—to help determine whether or not we have a realistic path to a climate safe world.
And these decisions have positive economic implications as well: previous research has shown that investing in low carbon infrastructure in the next five years will be four times less expensive than making the wrong decision now and having to replace carbon-intensive infrastructure in the future.
The report calculates that if cities around the world pursue low carbon urban development over a business as usual scenario, we could save 45 Gt CO2 by 2030, or roughly eight times the current annual emissions of the United States.
For context, scientists have previously calculated that we can emit a "carbon budget" of just 1,000 Gt CO2 without creating an unacceptable risk of run-away climate change, and that much of this budget may be locked-in by infrastructure investments that have already been made.
Previous research also suggests that decisions about the remaining infrastructure will happen by 2020. Fortunately, our new analysis shows that a third of the decisions will be made in cities, many of which are already demonstrating leadership on climate change.
More than half of C40's 80 member cities, for instance, have committed to the Compact of Mayors, a global platform where cities publish their current emissions inventories and commit targets and action plans to cut future emissions. Hundreds more cities around the world—representing nearly 300 million people—are following suit and making ambitious commitments.
Even though cities are taking decisive action to combat climate change, this report highlights the need for national governments to support climate action at a local level, such as the Our Cities, Our Climate international exchange program in the United States, a joint effort between the U.S. Department of State and C40 partner Bloomberg Philanthropies.
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As a growing number of states move to pass laws that would criminalize pipeline protests and hit demonstrators with years in prison, an audio recording obtained by The Intercept showed a representative of a powerful oil and gas lobbying group bragging about the industry's success in crafting anti-protest legislation behind closed doors.
Speaking during a conference in Washington, DC in June, Derrick Morgan, senior vice president for federal and regulatory affairs at the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), touted "model legislation" that states across the nation have passed in recent months.
AFPM represents a number of major fossil fuel giants, including Chevron, Koch Industries and ExxonMobil.
"We've seen a lot of success at the state level, particularly starting with Oklahoma in 2017," said Morgan, citing Dakota Access Pipeline protests as the motivation behind the aggressive lobbying effort. "We're up to nine states that have passed laws that are substantially close to the model policy that you have in your packet."
Big Oil is now using its political power to try and criminalize protests of oil & gas infrastructure.— Friends of the Earth (@foe_us) August 19, 2019
"This legislation has potential to punish public participation and mischaracterize advocacy protected by the First Amendment."https://t.co/bmiHjONEhy
The audio recording comes just months after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law legislation that would punish anti-pipeline demonstrators with up to 10 years in prison, a move environmentalists condemned as a flagrant attack on free expression.
"Big Oil is hijacking our legislative system," Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network said after the Texas Senate passed the bill in May.
As The Intercept's Lee Fang reported Monday, the model legislation Morgan cited in his remarks "has been introduced in various forms in 22 states and passed in ... Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, South Dakota, and North Dakota."
"The AFPM lobbyist also boasted that the template legislation has enjoyed bipartisan support," according to Fang. "In Louisiana, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the version of the bill there, which is being challenged by the Center for Constitutional Rights. Even in Illinois, Morgan noted, 'We almost got that across the finish line in a very Democratic-dominated legislature.' The bill did not pass as it got pushed aside over time constraints at the end of the legislative session."
Many of the state bills restricting the right to protest have been "drafted by companies and passed through groups like ALEC, the secretive group of corporate lobbyists trying to rewrite state laws to benefit corporations over people." @greenpeaceusa https://t.co/ZxpTjWdrwT— Stand Up To ALEC (@StandUpToALEC) May 6, 2019
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.