The starting point
Even if countries strictly implement their respective greenhouse gas emission reductions under the Paris Agreement, the way things currently stand that would mean an increase in the global average temperature of 2.7 to 3.0° C. To stay below the 2° C limit, or better below 1.5° C, we need much tighter country-level targets and significant additional actions by non-state actors, like cities, businesses, civil society organizations and individual citizens. Timing is crucial, we should aim at as large a change as possible within the next 5-10 years.
Non-state actors are mobilizing, including cities and local authorities through initiatives like the C40 group (now more than 80 megacities with about 550 million people) and the Covenant of Mayors. The Energy Efficiency Accelerator, launched at the UN Climate Summit in New York in 2014, has prompted a large number of cities to set their climate targets and strengthen action (see the UNFCCC’s NAZCA portal). Leading companies are also taking action, through individual pledges and joint initiatives. The We Mean Business coalition has attracted hundreds of companies and investors with total assets in the trillions of US dollars, who have committed to various climate actions.
Prominent among the initiatives undertaken by other non-state actors was Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si. It got a lot of media attention and made many people around the world understand that our current way of living is unsustainable and if we don’t change it we will leave a catastrophic legacy for future generations.
The above actions are already major steps forward. To enhance and further universalize them, we need to also better engage and mobilize people around the world, both as citizens and as consumers.
In comes the Citizen’s Climate Pledge
The Citizen’s Climate Pledge campaign was launched by a Finnish NGO called Myrskyvaroitus – Storm Warning in August 2015 to encourage individuals to take climate actions in their own lives. Sitra – the Finnish Innovation Fund supported the development of the pledge. By signing the pledge, either publicly or privately, a person promises to take decisive steps to cut their personal carbon footprint by half within ten years, as well as to share the experiences and the progress in making cleaner choices with family, friends and colleagues.
Those who sign the pledge send a clear message to world leaders to take decisive action to stabilize the global climate system and reduce the harmful effects of climate change. The internet-based pledge provides also a link to a tool for calculating one’s personal carbon footprint. Emissions that cannot be reduced can be offset through a link to the Climate Neutral Now facility of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
For more information
— Tapio Kanninen, President, Global Crisis Information Network (GCINET), former long-term UN staff member, incl. former head of the Policy Planning Unit, Department of Political Affairs, UN Secretariat