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EXECUTIVE PERSPECTIVE: Creating Alliances to Defend Against Climate Change

11 September 2018

“We can go faster and be more effective if we develop joint actions rather than if each of us set up our targets and implement them in isolation”

Takejiro Sueyoshi is a leading advocate of the Japan Climate Initiative and Special Advisor to United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative in the Asia Pacific region, and Professor Sergio Graf Montero is director of the Renewable Energy Institute at the University of Guadalajara. Here they discuss the necessary alliances between sectors that will allow for initiatives like the Paris Climate Agreement to succeed. They provide insight into real world examples of how these alliances can be formed and the benefits and opportunities they can create. Sherah Beckley, Editor, Thomson Reuters Sustainability.


The science is clear.

The struggle against climate change will not be decided solely in the corridors of power where international negotiators huddle, debate and horse-trade. It will play out around the entire world, in hundreds of millions of personal decisions and actions, informed by local conditions and policies. And it will be won when individuals, businesses, academic institutions, civil society groups and governments make concerted strides together to reduce their respective carbon footprints and prepare for an increasingly changing climate.

The Paris Agreement recognized this reality. Instead of a top-down treaty, the global climate deal is centred on the coming together of volunteered national commitments, allowing each country to decide its contribution to the common effort.

But national commitments will not – and cannot –  be delivered by national governments alone.

To succeed, the Paris Agreement depends on domestic constituencies making progress in the real economy, building public awareness and support for climate action at home, and partnering with their national governments and their peers to step up to the challenge, and deliver the low-carbon transition the world requires.

This is essential to achieve the targets that countries originally put on the table in 2015, and to improve on them. We know that even if current pledges and promises are fully met, they will  lead to warming above 3°C. And that will be disaster for people’s lives and livelihoods, as well as the delicate ecosystems which sustain the web of life on which we all depend.

The Paris Agreement was designed with this paradigm in mind. It’s spirit is increasingly resounding at the global level, including the Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action, the Talanoa Dialogue process, and in the upcoming Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS) in California.

The next stage is growing the base of climate action at home, in our countries. We need to inspire more and more businesses, universities, local and regional governments and civil society groups to take action. And we need to work in coalitions, because together we can achieve faster progress than each of us alone could, including working with our national governments to accelerate the pace of the low-carbon transition.

In Japan and Mexico, the work has already begun.

In July, a coalition of 105 Japanese companies, financial institutions, local governments, research institutes and NGOs founded the Japan Climate Initiative (JCI) . We came together because we collectively saw the urgency and an opportunity to hasten the transition towards a decarbonised Japan. A deadly heatwave, along with floods and coupled with intense typhoons hit Japan this summer and underscored the urgency to act because people’s lives (in Japan and around the world) are – literally – at stake.

Based on the measures that each of the members of the JCI have already been taking – for example, committing and in the process of delivering science-based targets and shifts to 100% renewable energy – we also see the benefits of leaving fossil fuels behind and embracing the energy of the sun and the wind to power our operations and our economy. And we are not alone. Since we launched JCI over a month ago, the coalition has added 70 additional signatories, demonstrating the enormous appetite for action among Japan’s leading businesses and local government leaders.

A month later, in August, we launched a second coalition, this time in Mexico. The Alianza para la Acción Climática de Guadalajara consists of more than 35 local government bodies, companies, universities and civil society groups from Mexico’s second largest city.

As part of this coalition, the University of Guadalajara aims to become a model university for embracing renewable energy – both in its curriculum and its operations. Guadalajara City, having recently joined the C40 Climate Leadership Group, aims to develop a city plan that is 1.5℃ compatible.

The city is working with its nine municipalities to design and implement measures that benefit all tapatíos (that is how we call ourselves in Guadalajara), such as an integrated public transport system with climate-friendly alternatives like biking. Companies and local groups are taking action too, switching to renewable energy and implementing energy efficiency programs.

Our coming together in Mexico is driven by the fact that we need to collaborate to get to where we need to go. There is no way around it. We can go faster and be more effective if we develop joint actions rather than if each of us set up our targets and implement them in isolation.

We are only just getting started, but we know that our national governments want to work with us, and that other cities are interested in this approach, with potential benefits all across Mexico.

At two ends of the globe, our coalitions are building the base for bold collaborative action at home. As founding members of the global Alliances for Climate Action (ACA), we want to partner with similar coalitions around the world, building the groundswell of climate action that our planet urgently needs, In doing so, we can inspire local leaders around the world to do more through collaboration.

As global decision-makers head to California for the Global Climate Action Summit in a few days, our coalitions will join the Summit to show that leading businesses, local governments, academic institutions and civil societies on the ground support a faster transition to a low-carbon economy and are committed to act.

As national governments take stock of the commitments in the run-up to Paris in 2015, they have the opportunity to leverage opportunities for higher ambition and jointly create the blueprints for the decarbonized societies of the future.

Effective collaboration is the way to the sustainable, climate-resilient future that we want, and we stand ready to act.

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