Mayors of 12 Major Global Cities Pledge Fossil Fuel Divestment
By Jessica Corbett
In another win for climate campaigners, leaders of 12 major cities around the world — collectively home to about 36 million people — committed Tuesday to divesting from fossil fuel companies and investing in a green, just recovery from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The announcement from C40 Cities — a global network of communities dedicated to tackling the climate emergency — came on day two of Climate Week NYC, some of which is being held online because of the COVID-19 crisis.
"Now is the time to divest from fossil fuel companies and undertake investment and policy change that prioritizes public and planetary health, building back a more equal society and addressing this climate emergency," declared New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
"In New York City, we know that taking action on climate change is not optional," added de Blasio, whose community has been hit hard by the pandemic. "As we recover from COVID-19, we must make our cities even stronger."
In 2018, de Blasio and London Mayor Sadiq Khan established the first-of-its-kind Divest/Invest Forum to help city leaders shift money away from fossil fuels and toward the creation of low-carbon jobs. Khan said Tuesday that his city has "demonstrated that divestment is possible and indeed essential for our future."
"Through our work with New York and C40, I'm delighted to bring together 10 more cities to join us in taking Divest/Invest action," he added. "As the world recovers from COVID-19, we need to work together to ensure a fairer, fossil-fuel-free green recovery."
Berlin, Bristol, Cape Town, Durban, Los Angeles, Milan, New Orleans, Oslo, Pittsburgh and Vancouver have all signed on to C40's declaration, "Divesting from Fossil Fuels, Investing in a Sustainable Future."
We are proud to be one of 12 cities around the world committing to @c40cities' declaration “Divesting From Fossil… https://t.co/qelg6N2x7o— LDNMayor Environment (@LDNMayor Environment)1600791776.0
"We're in a make-or-break decade for the preservation of our planet and our livelihoods," said C40 chair and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. "Our declaration makes a clear statement: If we're serious about a sustainable, just, and prosperous future, we have to put our money where our mouth is, remove public dollars from companies harming the Earth, and power our cities with bold investments in low-carbon industries."
Specifically, the mayors are committing to taking all possible steps to divest city assets from fossil fuel companies and increase investments in climate solutions; calling on pension funds to follow suit; and advocating for fossil-free and sustainable finance by other investors and all levels of government. A C40 statement called the declaration "a critical next step towards realizing the vision for a Global Green New Deal, announced last October at the C40 World Mayors Summit in Copenhagen, Denmark."
The mayors' latest move comes as western U.S. states including California battle unprecedented wildfires while the Gulf Coast recovers from Hurricane Sally and prepares for the possibility of more storms. Scientists have emphasized that both the intense blazes and slow-moving, destructive hurricanes are connected to global heating that results from human activity, especially the burning of fossil fuels.
"The declaration sends a loud clear message to the fossil fuel industry," said 350.org executive director May Boeve, whose advocacy group has spearheaded demands for a green, just recovery. "As we watch wildfires burn in the U.S. and devastating floods in parts of Africa, we know that fossil fuels are not a safe investment: the sector is too volatile to be deeply vulnerable, it is time to divest from fossil fuels and invest in the green and just recovery of the future."
Globally, over $200 billion in COVID-19 recovery funding has been pledged to fossil fuels. Boeve argued that "it is essential to ensure that today's investments do not lock-in polluting technologies and carbon-intensive industries. Investments should instead support the solutions we need to avert climate breakdown, create good jobs, advance environmental justice, and support livable communities."
Signatories to the C40 declaration agree. "Pulling out of climate-damaging and ethically problematic investment strategies is a key step in the transition to a sustainable economy," said Michael Müller, governing mayor of Berlin. "The fact that C40 cities are taking this ambitious step and actively promoting divestment sends an important political signal."
Last year, the Vancouver City Council took action to divest city and staff pensions from fossil fuels. By signing the declaration, said Mayor Kennedy Stewart, "we are furthering this work, which aligns with City Council's 2019 vote to unanimously recognize a global climate emergency and local climate crisis."
Former Vancouver City Councillor Andrea Reimer participated Tuesday in an NYC Climate Week event, hosted by Stand.earth, about local efforts to facilitate "a just transition to renewable energy, a green recovery, and a livable climate."
We’re live at #ClimateWeekNYC! Our “Cities Lead: Phasing Out Fossil Fuels” event is happening 2-3:30pm ET today. Fo… https://t.co/c4cpi7KlQU— Stand.earth (@Stand.earth)1600797624.0
The event — which also featured speakers from Stand.earth, Baltimore, Berkeley, and King County, Washington — included sample policies, success stories and resources for grassroots organizers and local government leaders.
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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A Game of Jenga<p>Think of it as a game of Jenga and the planet's climate system as the tower. For generations, we have been slowly removing blocks. But at some point, we will remove a pivotal block, such as the collapse of one of the major global ocean circulation systems, for example the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), that will cause all or part of the global climate system to fall into a planetary emergency.</p><p>But worse still, it could cause runaway damage: Where the tipping points form a domino-like cascade, where breaching one triggers breaches of others, creating an unstoppable shift to a radically and swiftly changing climate.</p><p>One of the most concerning tipping points is mass methane release. Methane can be found in deep freeze storage within permafrost and at the bottom of the deepest oceans in the form of methane hydrates. But rising sea and air temperatures are beginning to thaw these stores of methane.</p><p>This would release a powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, 30-times more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming agent. This would drastically increase temperatures and rush us towards the breach of other tipping points.</p><p>This could include the acceleration of ice thaw on all three of the globe's large, land-based ice sheets – Greenland, West Antarctica and the Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica. The potential collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is seen as a key tipping point, as its loss could eventually <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/324/5929/901" target="_blank">raise global sea levels by 3.3 meters</a> with important regional variations.</p><p>More than that, we would be on the irreversible path to full land-ice melt, causing sea levels to rise by up to 30 meters, roughly at the rate of two meters per century, or maybe faster. Just look at the raised beaches around the world, at the last high stand of global sea level, at the end of the Pleistocene period around 120,0000 years ago, to see the evidence of such a warm world, which was just 2°C warmer than the present day.</p>
Cutting Off Circulation<p>As well as devastating low-lying and coastal areas around the world, melting polar ice could set off another tipping point: a disablement to the AMOC.</p><p>This circulation system drives a northward flow of warm, salty water on the upper layers of the ocean from the tropics to the northeast Atlantic region, and a southward flow of cold water deep in the ocean.</p><p>The ocean conveyor belt has a major effect on the climate, seasonal cycles and temperature in western and northern Europe. It means the region is warmer than other areas of similar latitude.</p><p>But melting ice from the Greenland ice sheet could threaten the AMOC system. It would dilute the salty sea water in the north Atlantic, making the water lighter and less able or unable to sink. This would slow the engine that drives this ocean circulation.</p><p><a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/atlantic-conveyor-belt-has-slowed-15-per-cent-since-mid-twentieth-century" target="_blank">Recent research</a> suggests the AMOC has already weakened by around 15% since the middle of the 20th century. If this continues, it could have a major impact on the climate of the northern hemisphere, but particularly Europe. It may even lead to the <a href="https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/handle/10871/39731?show=full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cessation of arable farming</a> in the UK, for instance.</p><p>It may also reduce rainfall over the Amazon basin, impact the monsoon systems in Asia and, by bringing warm waters into the Southern Ocean, further destabilize ice in Antarctica and accelerate global sea level rise.</p>
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation has a major effect on the climate. Praetorius (2018)
Is it Time to Declare a Climate Emergency?<p>At what stage, and at what rise in global temperatures, will these tipping points be reached? No one is entirely sure. It may take centuries, millennia or it could be imminent.</p><p>But as COVID-19 taught us, we need to prepare for the expected. We were aware of the risk of a pandemic. We also knew that we were not sufficiently prepared. But we didn't act in a meaningful manner. Thankfully, we have been able to fast-track the production of vaccines to combat COVID-19. But there is no vaccine for climate change once we have passed these tipping points.</p><p><a href="https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-global-risks-report-2021" target="_blank">We need to act now on our climate</a>. Act like these tipping points are imminent. And stop thinking of climate change as a slow-moving, long-term threat that enables us to kick the problem down the road and let future generations deal with it. We must take immediate action to reduce global warming and fulfill our commitments to the <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Paris Agreement</a>, and build resilience with these tipping points in mind.</p><p>We need to plan now to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, but we also need to plan for the impacts, such as the ability to feed everyone on the planet, develop plans to manage flood risk, as well as manage the social and geopolitical impacts of human migrations that will be a consequence of fight or flight decisions.</p><p>Breaching these tipping points would be cataclysmic and potentially far more devastating than COVID-19. Some may not enjoy hearing these messages, or consider them to be in the realm of science fiction. But if it injects a sense of urgency to make us respond to climate change like we have done to the pandemic, then we must talk more about what has happened before and will happen again.</p><p>Otherwise we will continue playing Jenga with our planet. And ultimately, there will only be one loser – us.</p>
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