Aiming for zero

A self-driving concept car at the ZEV Showcase event, part of the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, California, on Thursday. A satellite on display at Planet's manufacturing facility in San Francisco on Tuesday, as part of a media tour i
Above: A polar bear statue made of car bonnets in front of the Ferry Building during the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco on ThursdayPHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Protesters in the city calling on California Governor Jerry Brown to stop oil drilling in the state.
Protesters in the city calling on California Governor Jerry Brown to stop oil drilling in the state. PHOTO: NYTIMES
A self-driving concept car at the ZEV Showcase event, part of the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, California, on Thursday. A satellite on display at Planet's manufacturing facility in San Francisco on Tuesday, as part of a media tour i
A self-driving concept car at the ZEV Showcase event, part of the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, California, on Thursday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
A self-driving concept car at the ZEV Showcase event, part of the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, California, on Thursday. A satellite on display at Planet's manufacturing facility in San Francisco on Tuesday, as part of a media tour i
A satellite on display at Planet’s manufacturing facility in San Francisco on Tuesday, as part of a media tour in conjunction with the Global Climate Action Summit.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Cities, regions and companies ramp up climate goals at global summit in San Francisco - amid US govt inaction

SAN FRANCISCO • Zero fossil fuel energy, zero gas guzzlers on the road, zero waste, zero CO2 emissions - dozens of cities, regions and companies made "zero" pledges at a global climate summit in San Francisco.

The mayors, governors and chief executives from around the world on Thursday stepped into the climate breach with concrete action as United Nations talks to implement the Paris climate treaty falter, and President Donald Trump dismantles US policies to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Global warming, meanwhile, continues to gather pace: Major storms bearing down on the US eastern seaboard and the Philippines, as well as wildfires ravaging California, bear the unmistakable fingerprint of climate change, scientists say.

"This is real and we will take action even if Washington doesn't," said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Jointly organised by California Governor Jerry Brown and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, the three-day gathering is a showcase for initiatives, big and small, to reduce humanity's carbon footprint.

Many centre on switching from cars and trucks powered by planet-warming fossil fuels to electric vehicles.

On Thursday, dozens of states, regions and major cities committed to allowing only zero-emission cars, buses and trucks on their roads within a few decades. Tokyo, Seoul and Rotterdam, meanwhile, joined Paris, London, Barcelona and Mexico City in vowing to run only electric buses by 2025.

TAKING ACTION

This is real and we will take action even if Washington doesn't.

LOS ANGELES MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI

FIGHT FOR EXISTENCE

We are in a fight for our own existence.

BARBADOS PRIME MINISTER MIA MOTTLEY

Even a decade ago, such commitments would have seemed unthinkable, said Professor Nicholas Stern, who heads the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment in London.

"Who would have thought that the heads of major car companies would all be agreeing that the era of the internal combustion engine is coming to an end," he told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

In the United States, vehicle emissions are the single largest source of greenhouse gases.

Electricity grids around the world are also purging fossil fuel-based energy.

Governor Brown signed legislation this week committing California - the fifth-largest economy in the world - to 100 per cent clean electricity by 2045.

He also penned an executive order mandating net-zero carbon emissions throughout the state's economy by 2045. "That is the most ambitious goal of anywhere in the world," he told AFP.

Mr Brown had tough words for Mr Trump, who yanked the US out of the landmark Paris agreement and is trying to rescind California's right to set its own vehicle emissions standard.

His actions "border not only on insanity, but on criminality", he told journalists. "Liar, criminal, fool - take your choice," he added when asked what Mr Trump's environmental legacy would be.

Mr Bloomberg, who leads the C40 climate-centred coalition of big city mayors, noted that many of the policies affecting carbon pollution are local.

"In the US, the decisions that have the most influence over greenhouse gas emissions are not made by the federal government," he said.

"They are made by mayors and governors who want to deliver cheaper energy, more jobs and cleaner air. And by CEOs, who want to save money on energy costs and capitalise on new business opportunities."

'ROAD TO ZERO' INITIATIVE

Entertainment and electronics giant Sony Corporation committed this week to running its global operations only with renewable energy, joining more than 140 multinationals - three-quarters of them having pledged to do so before 2030.

"This is part of our 'Road to Zero' initiative to eliminate our environmental footprint," said Sony president and CEO Kenichiro Yoshida.

Also on Thursday, more than two dozen cities that are home to 54 million people announced that their greenhouse gas emissions had peaked.

LOCAL GREEN EFFORTS

In the US, the decisions that have the most influence over greenhouse gas emissions are not made by the federal government. They are made by mayors and governors who want to deliver cheaper energy, more jobs and cleaner air. And by CEOs, who want to save money on energy costs and capitalise on new business opportunities.

FORMER NEW YORK MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG

Scientists have calculated that global emissions need to peak by 2020 to avoid the worst ravages of global warming, including deadly heatwaves, droughts and rising sea levels. "The transition to a net-zero economy is the growth story of the century," Prof Stern said.

At least one head of state at the conference has followed suit. "We are in a fight for our own existence," said Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley.

"It is for that reason that we have set 2030 as the target for us to have a fossil fuel-free economy."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 15, 2018, with the headline 'Aiming for zero'. Print Edition | Subscribe