7 Types of Climate Leaders to Be Grateful For This Thanksgiving
The UN Climate Conference starts next week in Paris, capping off what has been a truly extraordinary year for the climate movement. Leaders from every sector have stepped up to demand effective climate measures, show support for solutions, and lead by example. On this Thanksgiving Day, here are some of the many people, organizations, and actions we are grateful for:
Our Blessed Tomorrow leaders have long been devoted to spreading the message of creation care – but this year, they got help from some very influential sources. In his epic encyclical, Pope Francis called on all humanity to address climate change for moral reasons, a message he reiterated in speeches before Congress and the U.N. His impact on Americans, especially Catholics, was huge – thanks to the “Francis Effect,” more Americans are concerned about the impacts of climate change and believe we have a moral and social responsibility to fight it.
The Dalai Lama also spoke out on climate change, calling it a problem that “human beings created,” and saying we must now take action. In October, he and 14 other prominent Buddhist leaders issued a statement asking world leaders to end their dependence on fossil fuels.
Inspired by Pope Francis’ encyclical, over 425 rabbis have signed a letter calling for strong climate action against climate change. Islamic leaders took up the cry as well, urging the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims to actively play a role in fighting climate change and asking for an effective climate agreement in Paris.
We feel enormous gratitude for all the religious leaders who have reached out to their faithful, and we’d especially like to thank the leaders who attended our Coming Together in Faith on Climate event, held in Washington D.C. in conjunction with the Pope’s visit.
Smart business leaders understand that climate change poses a risk to their business, and that climate solutions are good for their bottom line. From tech companies to food giants to major financial institutions, American businesses have pledged to reduce their carbon emissions and invest billions of dollars in clean energy. In August, 365 companies publically voiced their support of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. In October, 81 iconic companies signed the American Business Act on Climate Pledge, promising to support a strong climate deal in Paris. More than 1,600 U.S. companies have signed the Ceres Climate Declaration calling climate action one of the 21st century’s greatest economic opportunities. And this week, 78 multinational corporations vowed to fight climate skeptics and become “ambassadors for climate ambition.”
We’re grateful for these leaders and for organizations like our America Knows How partners Ceres and the American Sustainable Business Council, who help coordinate and empower these types of efforts.
One of the best ways to make the impacts of climate change seem real, relevant, and urgent is to tie it to health and the common human values of caring for children and loved ones. This year, health leaders made the connection between climate and health more strongly and authoritatively than ever before. In June, the highly respected medical journal The Lancet issued a report calling climate change the “biggest global health threat of the 21st century.” That same month, the White House held a Summit on Climate and Health, where President Obama and Surgeon General Vivek Murthy pointed out that the effects of climate change are being felt now, and that health leaders must communicate to the public the need for action.
We’re thankful for these powerful messages from prominent leaders. We’re also grateful to the many health professionals who joined our Climate Health Summit in September, and for the MomentUs and ecoAmerica leaders from a variety of sectors who spoke about the climate/health connection at the recent APHA meeting.
Cities across the country are at the forefront of climate solutions, implementing clean transit, energy efficiency, and climate resilience projects and showing the rest of the nation (and the world) how it’s done. Their actions speak volumes, but many mayors have also made public statements announcing their commitments to addressing climate issues.
In July, Pope Francis gathered mayors from around the globe in Vatican City to sign a common declaration of intent to fight climate change. In September, mayors from 14 Mississippi River communities signed a proclamation pledging to prepare for climate change and promote climate solutions.
And earlier this month, leaders from the faith, health, higher education, business, local government, and environmental communities joined Path to Positive Communities and Climate Resolve for Climate Day LA. The leaders signed a declaration pledging action within their sectors as well as collaboratively. Many thanks to all who participated.
Higher Education leaders
Our nation’s higher education institutions have an enormous role to play, not only in implementing climate solutions within their organizations, but also in making climate action a priority for their students and shaping the next generation of climate leaders.
We’re grateful to colleges and universities for using their resources to improve climate communications and design innovative solutions. The University of California recently presented 10 practical, scalable solutions for addressing climate change, which can serve as examples for global leaders in Paris. And last month, Solution Generation and their partner the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities helped motivate and inspire climate innovation by awarding $10,000 to the HACU institution deemed to have the most effective climate outreach effort.
Higher ed institutions have also been vocal in their support of climate action – as of this week, over 200 universities have signed the American Campuses Act on Climate Pledge.
Federal Government leaders
Our government leaders increasingly understand that addressing climate change cannot wait. President Obama has made climate change a legacy issue for his administration. In public appearances in the Everglades and Alaska (both on the front lines of climate change), Obama stressed the urgency of climate action and helped make the threats real and relevant. In a major move earlier this month, he rejected the Keystone XL pipeline, demonstrating American leadership in the run-up to Paris as well as awareness that we need to leave some fossil fuels unburned.
In August, the EPA announced their groundbreaking Clean Power Plan, which will reduce carbon emissions from power plants. EPA Chief Gina McCarthy emphasized the health and economic benefits of the plan, helping to build widespread support.
We’re thankful for these leaders and for other vocal advocates of climate action, such as Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), who gives a weekly “Time to Wake Up” speech in the Senate, and the 11 courageous Republican members of the House who signed a resolution in September acknowledging the role of humans in causing climate change.
With the Paris conference just around the corner, we’re grateful to those leaders who have worked tirelessly, not just this year but in preceding years, to put these negotiations in motion. We’re grateful to the UN’s inspirational Climate Chief Christiana Figueres for keeping the momentum going, and to the city of Paris for not backing away from the climate conference even after the horrendous attacks on November 13. By showing global unity and prioritizing justice and the well-being of humanity, the Paris talks can help lay the groundwork for lasting peace.
Last but certainly not least, we thank those who have joined us on the Path to Positive – and everyone who is committed to climate action and promoting climate solutions.