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A bold path forward on climate

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Gov. Jerry Brown’s decision to have San Francisco host the Global Climate Action Summit is a reflection of The City’s efforts toward sustainability. (Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

We are living in a time where climate change poses an existential threat. Rising seas are supercharging King Tides, flooding city sidewalks and encroaching on our city’s roadways.

Wildfires are burning hotter, spreading faster and occurring with greater frequency. In some years, snow pack is measured in inches, rather than yards.

The world’s problems can feel like too much for one city or one person to take on. We can’t let ourselves succumb to hopelessness or “eco-anxiety.” We must continue to put one foot in front of the other and tackle global climate change head-on right here in our own backyard.

Today, the world is focused on San Francisco, the host City for Gov. Jerry Brown’s Global Climate Action Summit from Sept. 12-14. As the name implies, thousands of elected officials, business leaders, climate scientists, nonprofits, faith-based organizations, and educators from around the world will gather at Moscone Center with one common goal: taking action and showing the world and national leaders what is possible.

San Francisco is a city of action where bold ideas to heal the planet are rehearsed in our own urban laboratory before reaching the farthest corners of the world. In 2003, we set a goal of achieving zero waste and substantially cut The City’s disposal in just 10 years. We’ve reduced greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent below 1990 levels while our population has increased by 20 percent and the economy has grown by 111 percent. Our march to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030 hastens with every new CleanPowerSF and Hetch Hetchy Power customer. And we’re almost there—77 percent of our electricity supply is already greenhouse gas-free.

The fact that Brown chose San Francisco to host this global environmental convening is testament to our efforts, our successes, and the possibilities of what’s to come. Our day-to-day climate conscious choices are working. People are noticing. And they are coming from all corners of the world to learn, be inspired, and take a little piece of our green ethos back with them.

Action has gotten us to the world stage. But we need to harness our ambition and take climate commitment to the next level. And that’s what this Global Summit is about: action and commitment. It’s about defying the tendency for convenient denial or eco-anxiety. It’s about sharing successes and challenging each other to do more.

So, here’s what we are going to do.

We will continue to reduce emissions by electrifying all of our building energy needs and switching to 100 percent renewable energy. By 2030, new buildings constructed in San Francisco will be net-zero carbon and all existing buildings will be net-zero carbon by 2050.

We are doubling down on our commitment to 100 percent renewable electricity by rolling out CleanPowerSF to the rest of the City and expanding Hetch Hetchy Power services.

We will continue towards zero waste by reducing waste generation by 15 percent and cutting disposal in half by 2030.

Finally, we will issue more green bonds, so we can build climate resilient infrastructure, which offer safer, more durable investments for investors, thereby lowering interest rates and saving the City money.

Our path forward is bold, and it won’t be easy. These changes will impact all of us, residents and businesses alike. It means our air will be cleaner, people will breathe easier, neighborhoods will be more vibrant, and we will have brought tangible environmental benefits to all San Franciscans.

When cities lead, the world follows. The timing of this Summit is no accident. In December, the United Nations will host the next climate negotiations, this time in Poland. The commitments signed and stories shared here in San Francisco will be presented as a challenge to national governments, helping them overcome any hesitations or excuses they may have in taking the actions needed to heal and protect our planet.

Join us and be a part of the solution. Use the power of your choices to express your values.

There’s so much that each of us can do. And we must.

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