2021 is the year that we change the narrative on climate.
It is beyond doubt that the realities of climate change are here with us today – decades ahead of when we anticipated. From catastrophic wildfires to severe drought impacts to record high temperatures, we aren’t just heating up – we are burning up. We are in the midst of a climate emergency.
Climate change is a public health crisis that is claiming lives and threatening livelihoods in communities around the world – with a disproportionate impact on our most vulnerable. This is not something we can hide from, hoping it will go away, or leave for the next generation to handle. It is real, it is here, and we can’t afford to delay taking bold action.
But what exactly do we stand to lose if we don’t act now? If we don’t, collectively, meet or exceed our obligations under the Paris Agreement of no more than 1.5 degrees warming?
From now until the United Nations’ climate change conference, COP26, in November, states and regions from across the world will demonstrate what is at stake. One by one they will stand up and show what is being lost to climate change in their region – and why it must be tackled as a defining crisis of our time.
Over the next four months, regions from Asia, Europe, North America and South America will share images, videos and stories about their unique challenges as part of the campaign led by members of the Under2 Coalition, which represents 260 governments – including California as North American co-chair – and Regions4, representing 41 regional governments from 21 countries.
Each of the regions being spotlighted demonstrate not only the fragility of the natural world, but the clear links between the climate crisis and widespread biodiversity loss. The regions will speak out about why climate action matters to them and what iconic places could be lost forever if politicians fail to treat this like the emergency it is.
Climate change isn’t about countries: it’s about people. It’s about the world we want to live in for generations to come and the species we share it with. In other words, it’s far too important to leave just to world leaders – this crisis requires all of us to step up.
I recently called for states and regions everywhere to join the Race to Zero and commit to net zero emissions by 2050 at the latest. This won’t be easy and each year that passes makes it harder. But for the sake of our communities, the environment and our future, we must succeed.
California’s climate leadership has cut emissions, created jobs, catalysed innovation and spurred partnerships around the world. We exceeded our 2020 greenhouse gas emissions reduction target four years ahead of schedule, made a historic commitment to require sales of all new passenger vehicles to be zero-emission by 2035, set a first-in-the-nation goal to conserve 30 percent of our land and coastal waters by 2030, took action to phase out fracking and oil extraction, and we're exploring pathways to achieve carbon neutrality no later than 2035.
And we’re not alone – states and regions are leading with bold goals and policies to help protect us from the worst effects of climate change. Through the eyes of front-line communities around the world, the campaign will show the devastating alternatives that face us if we do not take urgent action. We are making our voices heard because there is no time to lose.
July 24 marks 100 days to COP26. Let’s not waste any time – using this window to decide what matters to us and what we can do, now, to protect our world. With the climate emergency on our doorstep, too much is at stake to wait for others to act on our behalf. In 2021, it’s on all of us to fight this existential threat, together.