Climate change caused by pollution has grown to such a level that it is now considered an international security threat on par with terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
So said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday morning in remarks at Climate Week NYC’s opening event, which took place prior to the UN Climate Summit.
During the speech, he pushed for $90 trillion to be invested in “infrastructure, in the world’s cities, in agriculture, and in energy systems.” Kerry also said that he was personally committed to ensuring climate change is “front and center in all of our diplomatic efforts.”
People’s Climate March NYC
Ahead of this week’s big climate week events, the People’s Climate March in New York City drew over 400,000 activists on Sunday, according to its organizers, making it the largest gathering ever to demand action on climate change. In fact, the weekend’s climate rally was a global movement, sparking over 2,600 events in over 150 countries marching in support of greater climate action by governments and corporations.
Sparking further concerns over the impacts of climate change over the weekend, a report released on Sunday noted that global emissions of greenhouse gases jumped 2.3 percent in 2013 to record levels of 36 billion tons of CO2, according to scientists at the Global Carbon Project. This is about 65% more emissions than was seen in 1990 levels.
Also on Sunday, New York City Mayor de Blasio announced the launch of a $1 billion overhaul to energy efficiency standards for city buildings in an effort to reduce greenhouse emissions by 80% by 2050 from 2005 levels. About three-quarters of the city’s emissions stem from energy used in buildings.
The new building efficiency rules will force 16,000 of the city’s largest buildings to disclose data regarding their energy use and upgrade to more efficient lighting. And the city will offer grants and other incentives to building owners for energy efficiency upgrades.
Further exemplifying that cities are leading the charge on fighting climate change, the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, a network of the world’s largest cities taking action to reduce emissions, announced its City Climate Leadership Awards 2014 on Monday night in New York. The winners include:
- Amsterdam (Finance & Economic Development)
- Barcelona (Intelligent City Infrastructure)
- Buenos Aires (Solid Waste Management)
- London (Carbon Measurement & Planning and Air Quality)
- Melbourne (Adaptation & Resilience)
- New York City (Energy Efficient Built Environment)
- Portland (Sustainable Communities)
- Seoul (Green Energy)
- Shenzhen (Urban Transportation)
- Taipei (Citizen’s Choice).
And some of the largest institutional investors have joined the chorus, with 350 of them representing over $24 trillion in assets making a joint statement last week pushing governments to put a price on carbon and create stronger incentives to drive greater investment in clean energy, energy efficiency, and green infrastructure. The goal is to close the gap between the current investment of only $250 billion and the $1 trillion per year that the IEA has stated needs to be invested by 2050 to avoid the worst impacts of climate change on the environment.
Also on Sunday, The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, which was mainly built from oil profits, announced it is divesting its $860 million philanthropic fund of investments in fossil fuels and will focus more on clean energy investing. This move is part of a larger fossil fuel “divestiture” movement by large endowments, foundations and corporations, including Harvard’s and Stanford’s endowments.
In fact, all these prompts from institutional investors and consumers are driving large corporations to adopt sustainability practices and invest in clean energy and energy efficiency. In 2013, investors filed a record-breaking 417 social and environmental shareholder resolutions, up from 365 in 2012, with many of them addressing climate change issues, according to a report by As You Sow. And in a recent EY survey of large corporations, 65% of CFOs said that they are involved in corporate sustainability.
Our Favorite Signs from the People’s Climate March