At this time of year, we see a lot of pieces that reflect on the year – but we’re going to start with reflecting on the past six weeks, because they’ve been that good in terms of climate change news. This holiday season, we’ve seen a lot of promising movement on national and international climate action, and the year isn’t even over!
Last week, we found out that India and the United States will be announcing a climate agreement. COP20 ended mid-December with a first step towards international action on climate change. In the last two weeks of November, China and the US announced a climate agreement, and the US Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience released their recommendations.
These are great first steps, and national action is an essential spur for change. But (you knew there would be a but) look a little more closely and you’ll realize that these agreements and efforts achievements aren’t enough. That’s why we all need to keep working on the local level: because these promising steps are partially due to the hard work that regions, counties, cities and towns throughout the world are putting in. Together, we all are creating a ripple of sustainability that is moving throughout the world and slowly scaling to levels needed to make the changes we must see by 2020.
You can see the impact of local action in the US Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience recommendations – a document partially built on the experiences of US communities. This Task Force placed a strong emphasis on the federal government working with local and regional entities. In that recommendation, we can read acknowledgment that what we are doing on the ground is working and worth replicating the world over.
Internationally, you can look to a report of urban sustainability efforts throughout China recently released at COP20 by NRDC in partnership with ISC, EDF, Energy Foundation China, and WRI. Their efforts to create more sustainable communities – things like the world’s largest bikeshare program, the world’s second largest Bus Rapid Transit system, or integrated planning processes – mirror similar work in the US. Everywhere you look, urban sustainability practices have caught on and are driving the larger conversation. This local action in China’s cities and provinces has proven that development in Asian cities can be sustainable and economically competitive.
In the US, ISC’s projects and programs have had incredible success in 2014 – and we see many echoes and reflections of this work in these international and national agreements. There’s been an unprecedented level of planning for climate and economic sustainability thanks in-part to HUD’s sustainable communities initiative. The Southeast Florida Regional Climate Compact has had success bringing together a much-touted bi-partisan coalition of counties into a regional governance model solely focused on mitigating and adapting to climate change. The membership in the American Society of Adaptation Professionals has grown exponentially, with nearly 900 people around the US helping to drive the national conversation on adaptation and resilience.
I’m excited to see what the new year brings, and I encourage everyone to keep working at the local level. If you watch the video of Dan Kahan from the Cultural Cognition Project at Yale Law School, you’ll hear him say that what drives everyday people to action is the belief that their neighbors & friends – the people who make up their very identity – are taking action as well. That is the hope that we all bring to 2015: that our action – however small – spurs our neighbors to action and that chain reaction transforms our communities for the better.
Elliott Bent is Communications Officer for ISC’s US Programs.