We are at a moment of important progress in the fight against climate change. From Pope Francis' speech in Congress to President Obama's meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping to the United Nations General Assembly, world leaders are focused on climate action. And tens of thousands of people will show their support by rallying both in DC and New York.
Confronting climate change is a marathon race, but we are at a moment of acceleration.
This burst of energy couldn't come soon enough. Scientists just reported the summer was the hottest on record. Soaring temperatures intensified drought, left farmers struggling to keep crops alive and fueled deadly wildfires. Extreme heat also contributed to smoggier air, putting people at risk of asthma attacks and other health hazards.
Climate change is threatening our communities right now, yet many Republican leaders in Congress ignore the crisis. They claim America shouldn't act on climate alone and they are attempting to undermine the upcoming international climate talks in Paris. But the truth is that America is not acting alone - we are part of a wave of strong climate action around the world from China to India and from national leaders to mayors, businesses and citizens.
This week re-confirms that GOP leaders are on the wrong side of history. They risk alienating the vast majority of Americans who support government measures to clean up carbon pollution (demonstrated in poll after poll after poll).
Most people are looking for climate leadership and four events this week will help deliver it.
The Pope Addresses Leaders: In speaking to Congress and the UN General Assembly, Pope Francis is building on his Encyclical where he laid out our moral obligation to shield people from the ravages of climate change, especially the most vulnerable among us. The pope has criticized politicians for their slow response to the climate threat and called on them to be "courageous" and look beyond "the mindset of short-term gain." Just this morning at the White House, Pope Francis said, "Climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to a future generation. To use a telling phrase of the Reverend Martin Luther King, we can say that we have defaulted on a promissory note and now is the time to honor it."
Citizens Rally for Climate Action: When the pope speaks to Congress on Thursday, tens of tens of thousands will gather on the Mall to show the broad support for climate action and climate justice. People of all faiths and all walks of life will join the rally, and many leaders will speak to the crowd, including my terrific NRDC colleague Aliya Haq who will make a strong case for U.S. leadership and the power of citizen action. Similarly tens of thousands are expected in New York to honor the Pope's call for climate action.
Presidents of US/China Talk Climate Change: President Obama will host President Xi Jinping at the White House to discuss issues including climate change. Despite what Republican leaders claim, China is already taking strong climate action. It has committed to reducing the carbon intensity of its economy by roughly 45 percent from 2005 levels by 2020 and is halfway there. China also plans to increase its share of non-fossil-fuel energy to 15 percent by 2020. As a part of the Paris climate agreement they will commit to do even more including peaking its carbon dioxide no later than 2030. And China is already reducing its coal consumption and has twice as much solar online as we do in the United States.
World Leaders Gather at the UN: Climate change will be a central focus of the General Assembly in New York later this week. Delegates will adopt the new Sustainable Development Goals, which include clean energy and climate mitigation targets. And they will clarify elements of the forthcoming Paris agreement. Several countries will likely announce commitments for reducing their own carbon pollution. Already nations accounting for more than 60 percent of emissions--including China and the US--have announced post-2020 targets, and the remaining big emitters, such as India, are expected to do so soon.
These and other developments set the stage for a strong agreement and commitments from cities, states, businesses and organizations worldwide to come out of Paris. They keep the drumbeat going for steady progress and hope for our future.