Strengthening public and private leadership during the climate decade

4 August 2020

In celebration of its fifth year of driving climate action, Climate Group hosted Under2 Coalition 5th Anniversary: Bringing Together Public and Private Leadership, a webinar that convened Under2 Coalition and business initiative members to discuss synergies on climate action.

Ken Alex, Director of Project Climate at University of California Berkeley Law School, moderated a discussion on the role of subnational governments and businesses in urgently reducing GHG emissions.

  • Ambassador Eleni Kounalakis, Lieutenant Governor of California
  • Benoit Charette, Minister of Environment and the Fight Against Climate Change of Québec
  • Sam Arons, Director of Sustainability at Lyft

The Under2 Coalition drives ambitious climate action by leveraging the power of state and regional governments who are stepping up to the plate and working together to achieve more during the Climate Decade and beyond. California and Quebec are founding members of the Under2 Coalition.

During the webinar, we learned about how the governments of Quebec and California are addressing climate change in light of the COVID-19 pandemic:

Eleni Kounalakis, Lieutenant Governor of California said: “California has a special place in this and we have tools to engage in and around the climate issue that allow us to be impactful, like the ability to have a cap-and-trade program that includes Canada... We bring in groups from around the world to be able to study the California model and study cap and trade.” Now more than ever we need subnational and business leadership to advance climate goals. With the lack of national climate action and policies in the US and Trump administration, California’s leadership is especially important for demonstrating the ambition of subnational governments.

Benoit Charette, Minister of Environment and the Fight Against Climate Change of Québec said: “Subnationals can do a lot. We cannot wait for the federal government’s initiatives. . . What we wish in Québec is that other provinces in Canada can join the cap and trade efforts between Québec and California. We hope that other provinces and states in the US can join us also.” The Under2 Coalition drives change through peer-learning and collaboration among its members, accelerating the implementation of effective climate policy collectively.

Sam Arons, Director of Sustainability, Lyft brought a unique perspective from the business side. He said: “We need to work with governments at the national and subnational level. . . We’ve had a lot of success working with states on their state-based legislation to help facilitate this transformation that is needed.”

On transportation being one of the largest sources of emissions in the US and Canada:

Sam Arons said: “We cannot collectively solve the climate issue unless we solve the transportation emissions issue. There is simply not something that can offset transportation emissions because by definition they're [one of] the largest source of emissions, so we have to solve it

Benoit Charette mentioned that because 99% of electricity in Québec is already powered from clean sources, the transportation sector together.”presents the largest obstacle to reducing emissions. Thus, transportation electrification is at the heart of Quebec’s green recovery plans, but also requires the support of other subnational governments to create an effective EV market in Canada.

Similarly, Eleni Kounalakis noted that the state of California has developed ambitious goals for transitioning to zero-emission vehicles, but still appreciates being held accountable for concrete climate action by other governments and stakeholders.

Lyft is also taking significant strides in the vehicle electrification transition by recently joining the Climate Group's EV100 initiative as the largest member in terms of vehicle-related commitments. By joining EV100, Lyft committed to reaching 100% electric vehicles on the Lyft platform by 2030 and expects there to be more than an estimated 2 million electric vehicles that will be used on its platform over the next 10 years.

Sam Arons said: “With our [Lyft’s] commitment, ridesharing is only 1% of vehicle miles traveled. So you could say, ‘Why does it matter?’ Somebody has to go first, and we’ve decided to step up and make this commitment. We can’t wait any longer. We have to show the way forward for other companies in the transportation sector.” In order to achieve this, ride share programs could be better supported by national and subnational governments through additional tax credits to businesses for EV purchasing. This would help elevate the number of EVs on the road, as was seen in Denver where Lyft was able to deploy 200 EVs using tax rebates for businesses.

Exploring green, equitable recovery from the COVID-19 crisis:

Sam Arons discussed the intersection of vehicle emissions, COVID-19 impacts, and climate justice, noting that transportation causes air pollution which disproportionately impacts already vulnerable communities, putting them at a greater risk of COVID-19. He emphasized that businesses and governments should address both structural inequality and climate change when building back greener and better from the pandemic. He said, “We have a unique opportunity to address a lot of issues at once. We have to recover from the pandemic, consider structural inequality and we need to address climate.”

Eleni Koufanakis reiterated that the Under2 Coalition “has been extremely productive [at creating] an architecture for engagement,” but must evolve its ambitions and try to establish more specific, targeted goals at the subnational level. Engaging other governments and businesses along the path towards a zero-carbon future will be critical to reaching key mitigation targets in the Climate Decade.

If you are interested in viewing the recording of the webinar, please contact media@theclimategroup.org.

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