Cities sign climate pledge in boost to global deal

NEW YORK, USA – Leading cities and regions on Thursday, September 24 promised ambitious cuts to emissions blamed for climate change, hoping to boost efforts for a global deal.

The commitment was the latest in a series of pledges during a week of climate events in New York aimed at building momentum for a year-end conference in Paris that seeks to draft a landmark UN agreement.

California, which is by far the most populous US state, has promised ambitious action on climate change despite political deadlock in the US Congress.

The state has spearheaded the initiative among sub-national governments to commit to keeping temperature rises to no more than 2°C (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels, a United Nations-endorsed threshold to avoid the worst consequences of climate change.

National pledges ahead of the Paris conference are so far on track to leave temperature rises at 3°C, according to UN officials. (READ: What’s happening in Paris in December? 10 things to know)

Mexico City, New York, San Francisco, Vancouver and the regions around Kathmandu and Manchester, England, were among the new signatories to the "Under 2 MOU" agreement launched last year, whose existing participants include Los Angeles.

While designed as a regional movement, 3 countries also joined the declaration – Italy, Luxembourg and The Netherlands. (READ: Cities, regions demand bigger climate say)

California Governor Jerry Brown vowed that "no opposition, however well-financed" would stop his state from meeting its climate goals.

"The politics of the future is to create the conditions of a livable, sustainable home," Brown, quoting Pope Francis on climate change, told a signing ceremony at The New School in New York.

With the pledges, 38 jurisdictions that cover $8.7 trillion in GDP have now signed the declaration, larger than any country except the United States and China, according to Brown's office.

The signatories promise, although without binding penalties, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% to 95% from 1990 levels by 2050.

Jeffrey Sachs, a prominent economist and UN adviser on development, said that cities and regions played a critical role in fighting climate change by making decisions on critical issues including infrastructure and building codes.

"I think the US is the perfect case – a country where politics at the national level have been log-jammed for two decades but a tremendous amount is happening at the local and state level," he told Agence France-Presse.

"And what is actually happening is also becoming a model for national and international policy."

Still, the UN conference in Paris will rely on commitments by national governments that have proven elusive in previous negotiating rounds.

Scientists say that the planet must check temperature rises at 2°C or lower to avoid the worst consequences of climate change including a growing number of droughts and disasters. –

Chimney with smoke image from Shutterstock