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Friday January 19 General

2018 is the year when we all need to step up climate action: Helen Clarkson

Helen Clarkson, CEO, The Climate Group, reflects on some of our campaign successes in 2017, and looks ahead to 2018, where our mission is to accelerate climate action.

January is often said to be named after the Roman god Janus: the god of passages, of beginnings and ends, who looks backwards and forwards at the same time. It’s more likely to be named after the goddess Juno, but let’s stick with Janus and ask what he might be thinking of the state of the climate right now.

Looking back, 2017 was a mixed year. There was a huge piece of bad news that hung heavily over the whole year – the Trump administration’s attitude towards climate and the environment, which was signalled through the announcement of the end of the Clean Power Plan, the scheduled pullout from the Paris Agreement, the removal of climate change risks from the National Security Strategy, and the banning of various words in the scientific community including “evidence-based”. Meanwhile pages about climate change have been removed from the EPA’s website (though they have been captured and can be found here).

But the US federal government’s determination to walk backwards on climate change unleashed a huge surge of forward movement from other parts of the US economy and the globe. States, cities, businesses, universities and tribes from across the US pledged to say “We’re Still In” the Paris Agreement. Meanwhile China made it clear that it was willing to take up the leadership mantle, and President Macron awarded grants for some US scientists to relocate to France.


At The Climate Group, we celebrated the continuing leadership of non-state actors through our campaigns during 2017. We flew past 100 members of the RE100 campaignpast 200 members of the Under2 Coalition, and successfully launched our EV100 campaign at Climate Week NYC. It was a great year for us in accelerating climate action.

And what does Janus see as he looks forward into 2018? This is likely to be a critical year for the climate. Halfway between the Paris Agreement being signed in 2015 and the next review of the Nationally Determined Contributions in 2020, the world is poised at a make or break moment. Critically, the IPCC will launch its special report on the impacts of 1.5°C of warming in the second half of the year, around the time that many non-state actors will gather in San Francisco for Governor Brown’s hugely anticipated Global Climate Action Summit.

So, the message this year is that we all need to step up. As individuals, as organizations, as states and regions. We’ll be continuing to do that at The Climate Group through driving our corporate campaigns, pushing the Under2 Coalition members in implementing their plans, leading a working group for the Global Climate Action Summit, and bringing it all together again at Climate Week NYC 2018. We look forward to working with you on this mission.

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