Are practical solutions to climate change within reach? Based on what I saw at the Governors’ Global Climate Summit, yes we can.
The Governors’ Global Climate Summit wrapped up last Friday with governors and other subnational leaders from around the world signing a declaration to work together toward effective climate solutions — including creation of climate policies, clean technologies, green jobs, forest conservation programs and adaptation activities.
They hope that their commitment, leadership, and initiative will motivate national leaders to succeed in reaching a new climate change agreement in Copenhagen. But can we be more than just hopeful? Here are some of the details of what came out of the summit — and why I think they demonstrate a solid basis for action on the international level:
Ahead of the closing ceremonies, forests featured prominently in two important events. Late Thursday night, governors from eleven states in Brazil, Indonesia and the United States signed a letter to their heads of state calling for a task force to develop effective policy on reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) that could be included in the international climate treaty to be negotiated in Copenhagen. Together, Brazil and Indonesia represent about one-half of the world’s tropical forests.
On Friday, governors from Wisconsin, the Indonesian state of Aceh and the Brazilian states of Para, Mato Grosso, Amazonas and Acre spoke directly to the opportunities they see in making forest protection, restoration and management a win-win solution for stopping climate change and creating more sustainable economies for their people.
Leaders from the Brazilian rubber tappers’ union, private timber and investment companies, and conservation organizations also spoke about the opportunities for launching partnerships to build capacity and contribute the funding needed to protect forests, support communities and fight climate change.
At least 17 percent of annual greenhouse gas emissions come from forest loss around the world — more than from all the Earth’s automobiles, trucks, trains, planes and ships combined. Halting and eventually reversing deforestation trends promises to be one of the most cost-effective and immediate solutions to stopping climate change.
The world’s attention now turns to Copenhagen where international leaders will meet in December to hammer out a new global climate agreement. The negotiators still have a lot of work to do before they can reach an agreement. The stakes are high: Failing to act on climate change risks catastrophic impacts on people, economies, and the natural world.
But the Governors’ Global Climate Summit in California last week demonstrated that practical solutions are in reach, and that subnational leaders are ready to lead the way with real action to reduce emissions and to help those communities most vulnerable to climate change.
(Image: A log yard fills a large field near the village of Long Gi, East Kalimantan, Indonesia. Credit: Mark Godfrey/TNC.)