By Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz
SAN FRANCISCO, California — Actor and climate advocate Harrison Ford made a strong appeal to all sectors to always call to mind nature when addressing the unprecedented challenges of climate change.
Speaking during the opening plenary of the 2018 Global Climate Action Summit on Thursday, Ford expressed concern that all the accomplishments made to fight global warming and climate change may be put at risk “if we don’t change the path that we are on today.”
He said “the future of humanity is at stake” with the destruction of nature accounting for more global carbon emissions than all the cars and trucks in the world.
Ford, who is the executive vice chair of Conservation International, said although putting solar panels in every house and turning every car into an electric vehicle is good, this will have failed as long as forests across the world are being burned or cut down.
He urged public officials, corporate leaders and civil society members to protect and restore forests, mangroves and wetlands. “These huge dense carbon sinks represent at least 30 percent of what needs to be done to avoid catastrophic warming.”
“It is, at this time, the only feasible solution for absorbing carbon on a global scale. Simply put, if we don’t protect nature, we can’t protect ourselves. This is what we need to do. We need to include nature in every corporate or state and national climate goals. Put in place the plans and timetables to meet those goals. Invest in mangroves and tropical forests in the same way that you invest in renewable energy. Work to end the destruction of these ecosystems,” Ford explained.
He also appealed for more research and reforestation, “like we pursue research in carbon capture and storage.”
“Set a goal to cut cost and increase scale dramatically. Empower indigenous communities to use their knowledge, their history, their imaginations. Our science to save their heritage and their lands. Respect and ensure their rights,” he said.
“Stop the denigration of science.”
While Ford did not directly name US President Donald Trump in his speech, he urged the public to “stop giving power to people who don’t believe in science or pretend they don’t believe in science for their own self interest. They know who they are. We know who they are.”
President Trump’s announcement a year ago that he was withdrawing the United States from the Paris climate agreement has generated significant concern about the future of the planet since the United States has significantly contributed to carbon dioxide emissions from the use of coal, oil and natural gas.
“All rich or poor. Powerful or powerless. We will all suffer the effects of climate change and ecosystem destruction and we are facing what is quickly becoming the greatest moral crisis of our time–that those least responsible will bear the greatest cost,” Ford said.
“Never forget who you are fighting for. The fishermen in Colombia. The fishermen in Somalia who wonder where their next catch is coming from and wonder why their government can’t protect them from factory fishing from across the world. It’s the mother in the Philippines who is worried that a next big storm will be going to rip her daughter from her arms. It’s the people here in California who are fleeing unprecedented fires and people on the east coast facing the worst storms in recorded history,” he added.
Protests mar Summit
Before the United Nations (UN) Special Envoy for Climate Action and Bloomberg Philanthropies founder Michael Bloomberg could even deliver his speech at the Summit, activists went up the stage chanting “the air is not for sale.”
Bloomberg, who is formerly the mayor of New York City, answered “nice to see you” and “thank you for coming here.”
“Only in America could you have environmentalists protesting an environmental conference,” Bloomberg said before the protesters were escorted from the auditorium where the opening plenary was being held.
US remains on track
Bloomberg, along with Summit co-chair California Gov. Edmund Brown Jr. unveiled a new report demonstrating how cities, states, and businesses can bring the United States within striking distance of its 2025 emissions reduction target in the absence of federal leadership.
“While headlines focus on the political fights in Washington, the real action on climate change is happening in cities, states, and the private sector,” Bloomberg said. “Those groups are positioning the US to uphold our end of the Paris Agreement, no matter what happens in Washington.”
The report showed that the US is almost halfway to the Paris goal, and it outlined steps that cities, states, and businesses can take to complete the goal.
“We need more leadership from the federal government, but until we get it, this report can serve as a blueprint for national climate action, driven from the bottom up,” Bloomberg said.
“States, cities, businesses, universities and nonprofits are showing the way with real commitment and real action on climate,” Brown said. “We’re getting it done, but there’s still a mountain to climb.”
More aggressive climate actions
Summit co-chair Anand Mahindra, CEO of the Mahindra Group, reported that companies representing around one-eighth of total global market capitalization are now using climate science to define their future direction of travel.
This has been an unprecedented rise in the number of companies committing to reduce their emissions in line with the levels required to prevent dangerous global warming.
Between January and August 2018, over 130 new companies joined the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), a collaboration between Carbon Disclosure Project, the United Nations Global Compact, World Resources Institute and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).
The SBTi independently assesses and validates corporate emissions reduction targets against the latest climate science.
The jump represented a more than 39 percent increase compared to the same period in 2017. Nearly a fifth or 17 percent of the Fortune Global 500 companies have now committed to set science-based targets.
Also during the Summit, 17 announcements were made under the umbrella of the 30×30 Forest, Food and Land Challenge, which calls for action to improve food production and consumption, better conserve forests and habitats and use land more efficiently and sustainably to deliver up to 30 percent of the climate solutions needed by 2030.
The day’s announcements, which came from farmers, ranchers, foresters, chefs, indigenous peoples, business leaders and elected officials, represented a step forward on land stewardship climate commitments that is expected to inspire greater ambition globally.
“Today’s commitments are good news for our planet,” said Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, WWF’s Global Lead for Climate and Energy.
“Agriculture, forestry and other land uses contribute more greenhouse gas emissions than all the cars, trucks, planes and ships in the world, yet land-oriented climate change solutions receive only 3 percent of climate funding,” Pulgar-VIdal said.
“Today we committed to taking the steps needed to close that gap. With the next round of UN climate talks right around the corner, countries must advance more of these conversations to set science-based targets and develop land-based solutions that will help mitigate the worst effects of climate change,” he added.