The first-ever pan-American action statement on climate change came out last Thursday, July 9, as the Climate Change Summit of the Americas in Toronto drew to a close. A recent poll shows that 84% of Canadians believe that prosperous countries like their own have an obligation to show international leadership in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change organized the meeting. It convened pan-American jurisdictions, indigenous leaders, environmental groups, and industry, to formulate common goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and to highlight opportunities for investing in a global low-carbon economy.
As well as highlighting the urgency of action on climate change, the joint statement affirms that subnations are achieving impactful global climate action. It also acknowledges the need to continue working together to reduce greenhouse gas pollution. The statement codifies earlier collaborations across the Americas, and it strengthens regional efforts to build subnational partnerships and establish and expand existing carbon pricing networks.
Ontario and 21 other states and regions from across the Americas, including Brazil, Mexico, the US, and Canada, ratified the treaty. Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, Ontario’s 25th premier and the first woman to lead the province, led the signing at the conference. Commitments that it includes:
- Support carbon pricing;
- Ensure public reporting;
- Take action in key sectors; and
- Meet existing greenhouse gas reduction agreements.
The statement reinforces other subnational agreements, including California’s Under 2 MOU and the Compact of States and Regions, which mandates annual reporting of greenhouse gas emissions by each member of the compact. Echoing a growing number of subnational climate coalitions, the statement calls for faster, more comprehensive decisionmaking at the United Nations Conference of the Parties in Paris at the end of the year. Says Premier Wynne:
“Across the Americas, subnational regions like Ontario are leading the way on climate change policy. The Pan-American action statement that we signed today unites us and takes us a step closer to achieving a progressive agreement at COP21 in Paris. Together, we are finding innovative ways to combat climate change while driving growth in a more sustainable, prosperous and equitable low-carbon economy.”
Philippe Couillard, Premier of Québec, added:
“More and more federated states are demonstrating their commitment to carbon pricing, in particular by using existing mechanisms. On the road to the Climate Change Conference in Paris next December, the summit in Toronto is allowing us to take advantage of conditions that are highly favourable to the success of such projects. We must continue our work to reach an ambitious agreement which will help limit the increase in global average temperature to under 2°C.”
Felipe Calderón, former President of Mexico and Chair of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, and Jerry Brown, Governor of California, attended the meeting, as did Paul Davis, the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, and representatives from Manitoba, Vermont, and other jurisdictions, including regions of Brazil.
Calderón and Al Gore, former U.S. vice-president and chairman of The Climate Reality Project, were both bullish on the opportunities for business that climate change and adaptation present. Said Calderón:
“We now have clear evidence of states, provinces, cities, and businesses leading the way on climate action and achieving strong economic growth at the same time. This summit has been an incredible demonstration of this bottom-up momentum and should inspire more ambition by all on the road to Paris.”
Here’s an important clip from Gore’s statement:
“Around the world, people are calling on their leaders to take climate action and the elected officials represented here are demonstrating the bold leadership we need. The Climate Action Statement will not only reduce emissions in the regions represented, but will inspire stronger federal action and bolster a historic agreement in Paris. I’m more convinced than ever that we will solve the climate crisis. Today’s agreement, and the continued leadership of subnational leaders everywhere, is a crucial part of the solution.”