Optimism trumps despair at climate summit

September 16, 2018

SAN FRANCISCO — Mayors, governors, entrepreneurs, CEOs, investors and celebrities delivered a double-edged message Friday at the close of a climate summit in San Francisco: global warming is making the planet unliveable — but we know how to fix it.

“We are using the sky as an open sewer, it’s insane,” former US vice president Al Gore told the conference, noting that humanity belches 110 million tons of heat-trapping pollution into the atmosphere every day.

“Will we change? That’s what the Global Climate Action Summit is all about.”

Over three days, thousands of delegates from the private and public sectors showcased policies and innovations aimed at reducing that flow of greenhouse gases.

Cities are converting to all-electric vehicle fleets and setting deadlines for banishing gas-guzzling cars from their roads; companies have vowed to operate only with renewable energy, including a few smokestack multinationals in the developing world.

“Clean and green is profitable,” Mahendra Singhi, CEO of Dalmia Cement Ltd in India told AFP.

Investors managing fortunes said they were purging coal, oil and gas from their portfolios; young entrepreneurs showed off energy-efficiency apps and inventions.

Provincial and state governors in tropical countries vowed to empower indigenous peoples who have been managing forests sustainably since before “sustainable” was even a word.

Zero-carbon future

But all these efforts may be in vain, the delegates warned, if national governments fail to do their part.

“Now is the time for all leaders to step up and take bold action,” they said in an appeal framed as a Call to Action.

“We call on the national governments of the world to step up ambition now... and chart a clear path to your zero-carbon future.”

“We have enough critical mass in the private sector now to help spur that political process,” said Paul Polman, CEO or Unilever, one of the world’s largest consumer goods companies.