Leaders from all corners of the world met in California this month at the Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS), underlining what is already underway in the pursuit of transformative investments, healthy energy systems, inclusive economic growth, and land and ocean stewardship.

The PRI contributed to the transformative investments theme through convening investors to participate in The Investor Agenda - with over 400 investors having taken action on one or more areas - with seven partner organisations. The PRI was represented at the summit by APG’s CEO, Gerard Olphen, who announced that no APG infrastructure in investments would involve thermal coal-related activities. 

GCAS ended with delegates calling on national governments to join forces to step up climate action ahead of 2020 - when global greenhouse gases (GHG) need to peak and fall sharply thereafter to avoid the worst impacts of climate change:

“The climate crisis calls for urgent action. We have seen the human impact on health, disease, famine, conflict, refugee crises, and livelihoods. We have seen thousands of people die each year from worsening storms and floods, heat waves, droughts, and wildfires. These impacts disproportionately affect the poor, disadvantaged, and vulnerable. Now is the time for all leaders to step up and take bold action.”

Below is a summary of some of the major commitments made at GCAS, of which there were around 500.

Paris Agreement - strong US and China leadership

  • Over 10 leaders committed to carbon neutrality – or removing as much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as they emit – with the Governor of California, Edmund G. Brown Jr., committing to California achieving this through 2045. California also announced it will develop its own climate change pollutant-monitoring satellite.
  • 17 US states and 400 cities have joined the We Are Still In coalition, committing to honouring the terms of the Paris Agreement, despite President Trump’s decision to withdraw.

Transformative investments

The Investor Agenda was formally launched, bringing together nearly 400 investors managing US$32 trillion of assets. The Investor Agenda was developed by seven partner organisations: the PRI; UNEP Finance Initiative; Asia Investor Group on Climate Change; CDP; Ceres; Investor Group on Climate Change; and Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change. Announcements made at GCAS included:

  • New York City will double its investments in clean energy and climate solutions to $4 billion over the next three years;
  • APG, the Dutch pension fund manager, will no longer invest in coal-related infrastructure;
  • PKA, Denmark’s labour market pension fund manager, plans to increase its investments in low-carbon climate solutions to 10 percent of its assets;
  • a Global Green Bond Partnership, (GGBP) backed by the World Bank and others, was launched to support sub-national and corporate green bond issuance.

Healthy energy systems

Cities, governments and multinational businesses committed to 100 percent zero-emission targets through the ZEV Challenge.

  • IKEA Group will transition to EV in Amsterdam, Los Angeles, New York, Paris and Shanghai by 2020 to reach 100 percent zero emissions for last mile home delivery.
  • over 3.5 million additional zero-emission vehicle charging points will be installed by 2025, and a goal for transport hydrogen to be zero-emissions by 2030 was launched;
  • almost 400 global companies along with healthcare providers, cities, states and regions now have 100 percent renewable energy targets;
  • over 30 energy-intensive industry and property players set smart energy and net-zero carbon building targets through EP100, The Climate Group.

Inclusive economic growth

  • 488 companies from 38 countries adopted emission reduction pathways in line with the science of the Paris Agreement, up nearly 40 percent from last year;
  • nearly a fifth of Fortune Global 500 companies have now committed to set science-based emissions reduction targets including big emitters such as India’s Dalmia Cement;
  • 21 companies signed the Step Up Declaration, a new alliance dedicated to harnessing the power of emerging technologies and the fourth industrial revolution to help reduce GHG emissions across all economic sectors and ensure a climate turning point by 2020;
  • Autodesk, Safaricom and Unilever became the first to join a new Pledge for a Just Transition to Decent Jobs. They pledged to only buy from renewable energy providers that uphold fundamental workers’ rights including social protections and wage guarantees.

Sustainable communities

  • over 70 big cities are now committed to carbon neutrality by 2050, including Accra, Los Angeles, Tokyo and Mexico City. These actions alone will lead to a 2.5 percent cut in annual GHG emissions and the avoidance of 12 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2050;
  • mayors of over 70 of the world’s key cities reaffirmed their commitment to delivering on the highest ambitions of the Paris Agreement, namely to keep a global temperature rise to below 1.5℃.
  • during the maiden voyage of the San Francisco Bay Area’s first plug-in hybrid electric ferry, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. signed a package of bills aimed at dramatically reducing carbon emissions by boosting the number of zero-emission vehicles and charging stations in California, and getting dirty cars and trucks off the road;
  • Starbucks said that by 2025 it will have 10,000 greener stores globally, involving existing stores and new stores and renovations.

Land and ocean stewardship

  • over 100 global supply chain actors including Tesco pledged to work with a variety of organisations to halt deforestation and native vegetation loss in the Cerrado, Brazil;
  • Walmart announced a new platform to identify high-risk jurisdictions and source palm oil and paper and pulp from jurisdictions with no deforestation.
  • through the Pacific Coast Collaborative, states and cities on the US West Coast committed to reduce food loss and waste by 50 percent by 2030, a commitment with the potential to reduce 25 million tonnes of GHG emissions a year from the often-overlooked food sector;
  • nine of the world’s leading philanthropic foundations announced their intent to commit at least $459 million through 2022 to the protection, restoration and expansion of forests and lands worldwide.

Climate finance

Climate finance is essential for achieving the Paris Agreement goals and remains a significant challenge. The PRI and GCAS therefore held a joint event on practical hurdles for climate finance and how these can be overcome. Speakers included the PRI’s CEO, AXA Group, European Investment Bank, Californian clean tech start-ups, the Governor of Hawaii, and representatives from the Governors of New York and California.

The event included climate finance awards and the launch of The Climate Finance Playbook, recommending actions to scale up climate finance, published jointly by the California Governor’s office, Ceres and the PRI.

The Climate Finance Playbook recommends that the finance sector raise its game to accelerate towards an annual goal of US$1 trillion in private and institutional capital in low-carbon and resilient infrastructure. The playbook recommends three action principles:

  1. Risks, returns and realism - meaning investors would bring clear term sheets to the table with their requirements
  2. Resilience and mitigation - meaning more focus on resilient infrastructure; and
  3. Running the gauntlet i.e. implementation, with more focus on early stage investment and project pipeline.