As powerful Hurricane Florence headed toward the east coast of the United States Wednesday, Mayor London Breed kicked off the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco highlighting the importance of cities taking action.
“We have shown that you can be a sustainable city while maintaining a thriving economy,” Mayor Breed told the gathering of leaders from around the globe.
“The decisions we make today and the partnerships we form are critical to ensuring we leave our communities, our planet a better place for the next generation.”
The event, hosted by C40 Cities, a network of more than 90 municipalities from all over the world focused on tackling climate change, and the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, brought together leaders from cities including Paris, New York City, Salt Lake City, Copenhagen and more. Many used the summit to announce ambitious new policies to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.
Just last week, San Francisco announced its plan to require all residential buildings to be net-zero, achieve 100 percent renewable energy, continue to issue more municipal green bonds and cut the amount of waste The City currently sends to landfills in half by 2030. The policies are intended to put San Francisco on the path to be carbon neutral by 2050.
To reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills, San Francisco has also set a goal of reducing the amount of waste generated by 15 percent and cutting disposal in half by 2030. It is the first time a municipality has focused on generating less waste through refusing and reusing, instead of recycling or composting. The focus is important, according to The City, because every pound of waste we generate causes 70 pounds of upstream waste.
“Zero waste is right up there with renewable energy and building efficiency,” Debbie Raphael, the Director of the San Francisco Department of Environment, told the Examiner. “It’s acknowledging the tremendous impact on climate and emissions from the things we buy.”
Ambitious climate policies, like San Francisco’s, will help the United States meet the goals in the Paris Accord. After President Donald Trump announced his decision to withdraw from the climate change agreement in 2017, 3,000 cities, states and businesses leaders announced their pledge to remain committed to global commitments. Together, they represent nearly 60 percent of the United States economy, 37 percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions and over half the population.
A report by Bloomberg Philanthropies found that, globally, urban climate policies can create 14 million jobs and prevent 1.3 million premature deaths by 2030. Improved bus services, for example, can prevent nearly 1 million premature deaths from air pollution and traffic fatalities worldwide. It also saves 40 billion hours of commuters’ time each year by 2030.
“I’ve seen time and time again how local governments can make a real difference,” said Patti Harris, CEO of Bloomberg Philanthropies and member of former-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Office.
Next month, San Francisco will release an initial report on the various paths it will take to meet the ambitious goals it set last week.
The Global Climate Action Summit continues in San Francisco on Thursday.