“The American government may have pulled out of the Paris Agreement, but American society remains committed to it – and we will redouble our efforts to achieve its goals. We’re already halfway there.”
— Mike Bloomberg, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change
The lack of leadership on climate change at the US federal level has not slowed the response of businesses, municipalities, and individuals. If anything, the political vacuum on this issue is spurring the realization that it is our individual and collective responsibility to slow and even reverse global warming.
To explore this idea, in January 2018 Framework hosted a panel sponsored by the Duke University Nicholas School of the Environment and the Duke Alumni Association, on how non-federal actors can join in creating effective solutions for climate mitigation, adaptation, and resilience.
The panel was one of three held across the country. As Framework President & COO Aleksandra Dobkowski-Joy remarked, “It was inspiring to hear from the panelists about how, even with a leadership vacuum in our Federal government—municipalities, businesses, organizations, and individuals are jumping in to find climate change solutions.”
Valeria Orozco, Senior Manager of Sustainability at Nestle Waters North America, gave a brief perspective on how corporations are approaching climate change in terms of strategic risks and opportunities. She spoke about her company’s commitment to carbon reduction targets and initiatives, a position that will not change as a result of US policy.
Leanne Shofi, Special Counsel at Cuddy & Feder LLP, discussed litigation taking place to hold municipalities and states responsible for properly enforcing environmental regulation. In many cases, she said, individuals and organizations are banding together to sue the federal government for not holding the environment “in trust” for future generations. One example is Juliana v. United States, currently being argued in the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which was filed by environmental groups on behalf of “young people and future generations” and charges the federal government with violating constitutional rights by causing dangerous carbon dioxide concentrations.
Christina Forst, Senior Director of Communications at Framework, described the scale of potential impact by US non-federal actors, whose combined GDP totals some $10.1 trillion – close to the entire GDP of China. Many businesses across sectors have adopted policies to systematically cut emissions, address Climate Action as part of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and reduce their business carbon footprint.
Aleksandra Dobkowski-Joy, President and COO of Framework, moderated the panel and concluded with a review of the many meaningful ways individuals can take action on climate change mitigation, from pursuing a plant-rich diet to installing solar panels. She shared her own family’s experience of installing a 15 MWh solar photovoltaic array to reduce dependency on fossil fuel-based electricity. She also recommended to attendees the recent book, Drawdown, edited by Paul Hawken, which ranks the 100 most substantive existing solutions to address climate change. Taken together, these solutions could roll back global warming within thirty years.
Organizations and Resources:
- United Nations COP 23 website, https://cop23.unfccc.int/
- Environmental Defense Fund: https://www.edf.org/
Nonprofit environmental advocacy group known for its work on global warming, ecosystem restoration, oceans, and human health. EDF also sponsors a summer fellowship program for graduate students: http://edfclimatecorps.org/
- Natural Resources Defense Council: https://www.nrdc.org/
NRDC combines the power of more than three million members and online activists with the expertise of some 500 scientists, lawyers, and policy advocates across the globe to ensure the rights of all people to the air, the water, and the wild.
- CT Dept of Energy and Environmental Protection: http://www.ct.gov/deep/
DEEP is charged with conserving, improving and protecting the natural resources and the environment of Connecticut as well as making cheaper, cleaner and more reliable energy available for the people and businesses of the state.
- Connecticut Green Bank: http://www.ctgreenbank.com/
Connecticut Green Bank supports the State’s energy strategy to achieve cleaner, less expensive, and more reliable sources of energy while creating jobs and supporting local economic development.
- COTAP: https://cotap.org/
Counteracts carbon emissions through certified forestry projects in least-developed regions, creating transparent, accountable, and life-changing earnings for rural farming communities where income levels are less than $2 per day.
- Drawdown: http://www.drawdown.org/ (book)
100 Solutions to Reverse Global Warming, edited by Paul Hawken
- US EPA Carbon Footprint Calculator: https://www3.epa.gov/carbon-footprint-calculator/
- Columbia Law School Sabin Center for Climate Change Law: http://columbiaclimatelaw.com/
- Pace Energy and Climate Center: http://energy.pace.edu/
- 350.org: http://world.350.org/ and https://350ct.org/
350.org is a volunteer group working to inspire individuals to take on the challenge of climate change. 350 Connecticut is a community of people working to move Connecticut beyond fossil fuels through grassroots organizing.
- Climate Reality Project: https://www.climaterealityproject.org/ and Climate Reality Leadership Corps: https://www.climaterealityproject.org/leadership-corps
Non-profit organization founded by former Vice President Al Gore to support education, awareness and advocacy related to the climate crisis. The Leadership Corps is a global network of activists committed to taking steps to solve it.
- We Are Still In: https://www.wearestillin.com/
Over 2,500 leaders, representing the broadest cross-section of the U.S. economy, who have declared their commitment to pursuing climate action.
- Global Climate Action Summit: https://globalclimateactionsummit.org/
In September 2018, California governor, Jerry Brown, will host a summit to bring together leaders from state and local governments, business, and citizens from around the world in support of the Paris Agreement and climate action.