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San Francisco Hosts Global Climate Action Summit

Faith leaders join a
Faith leaders join a “Rise for Climate” demonstration in San Francisco ahead of the opening of the Global Climate Action Summit. From

Scheduled between the 2015 and 2020 Paris climate summits, the Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS) is being held in San Francisco from 12–14 September, celebrating some of the achievements of states, companies, and citizens in relation to climate action. The GCAS also seeks to inspire a renewed push to reduce emissions worldwide so that global warming can be contained at an increase of 1.5°C instead of the 2°C target that was adopted by the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.

The GCAS, hosted by California govenor Jerry Brown, unites many political, economic, and social leaders from around the world, including representatives of international bodies such as the United Nations, all committed to fighting climate change. It is the first global climate summit to focus on the actions and ambitions of businesses, cities, states, and citizens worldwide. The event included the climate action panels, workshops, tours, exhibits, and other special events, and was streamed live on social media, allowing people from all over the world to participate.

The summit began with a General Assembly, in which state and regional governments showcased the progress they have made, and presented plans to make the Paris Agreement ambitions a reality.

“Climate change is the defining issue of our time, and we are at a defining moment,” said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres in a speech prior to the conference at the UN headquarters in New York. He stressed that “scientists have been telling us for decades. Over and over again. Far too many leaders have refused to listen. If we do not change course by 2020, we risk missing the point where we can avoid runaway climate change.” (The New York Times)

Representatives of Buddhist communities at the protest. From
Representatives of Buddhist communities at the protest. From

On 8 September, just days before summit started, tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets of San Francisco to demand urgent action to address the global climate crisis. It is believed to be the largest-ever climate march on the West Coast of the US. Many religious and spiritual groups joined the march, including more than 300 Buddhists from 15 Buddhist communities. The march began with a meditation session led by monks from Green Gulch Farm Zen Centre and was followed by a multi-faith service. On 13 September, the multi-faith communities hosted a live-streamed service in San Francisco’s Grace Episcopal Cathedral, which included a message from His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

“The Buddhist and mindfulness traditions teach the transformative power of turning toward each and every difficulty, even a difficulty as immense as global climate change,” said One Earth Sangha co-founder Kristin Barker. “When we look closely, we see that climate change is born of thinking ourselves separate from the web of life.” (Lion’s Roar)

In addition to the march, there were many other protests during the week of the summit aiming to draw attention to air pollution and social inequity in the host state of California: “Climate change, economic inequality, the housing crisis, increased criminalization, attacks on immigrant communities—all these challenges are driven by systemic devaluation of the lives of people of colour and choosing profit over people and the planet,” said Gladys Limon, executive director of the California Environmental Justice Alliance. “We are standing up to life-destructive industries, from big oil to natural gas companies, that obstruct progress toward a healthy, sustainable and just society.” (The Guardian)

The summit will be followed by the next round of UN climate talks in Katowice, Poland, where the first official estimate of global progress will be made.

See more

Rise for Climate: thousands march across US to protest environment crisis (The Guardian)
World leaders, faith groups gather for Global Climate Action Summit (The National Catholic Reporter)
Global Climate Action Summit Kicks Off in San Francisco (NBC Bay Area)
U.N. Chief Warns of a Dangerous Tipping Point on Climate Change (The New York Times)
Hundreds of Buddhists join San Francisco climate march (Lion’s Roar)
About the Summit  (Global Climate Action Summit)

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