As this year comes to a close, it marks the end of a chapter for the U.S. – with a presidential transition underway – and the beginning of the crucial ten years to fight climate change.
This year was marked by compounding crises that laid bare and exacerbated deep inequities in society. The poorest people around the world and communities of color in the U.S. bore the heaviest burden from the COVID-19 pandemic, the ensuing economic crisis, and climate impacts that continued to hit hard around the world.
In response to the crises, the Foundation’s climate and clean energy program pivoted in early 2020 to help the most vulnerable communities and to provide grantee partners with more flexibility to respond to the crises. For example, the Foundation made rapid response grants to organizations such as the National Consumer Law Center that are helping to ensure that low-income households and communities of color maintain access to essential utility services like electricity, water, and telecommunications during the crises, and that the nation emerges from the crises with stronger protections against shut-offs. The Foundation also made flexible grants to leaders in the field such as the Center for American Progress, the Equitable and Just National Climate Platform, and the World Resources Institute to help the country build back better from the crises.
There is no time to waste to build that better future. Scientists now say the world has about a decade to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. The United Nations recently warned that the world risks becoming an “uninhabitable hell” without more aggressive climate action. And yet, as we prepare to turn the page on 2020, I am optimistic about faster and more ambitious action on the path ahead.
Despite four years of the U.S. federal government abdicating its global leadership and waging an all-out assault on rules that protect public health and the environment, global resolve to address climate change is strengthening. China and the European Union – two of the world’s highest emitters – recently set much more ambitious goals to curb pollution. President-elect Biden has pledged to rejoin the global Paris Agreement and reestablish the U.S. as a leader, and to have the U.S. reach net-zero emissions by 2050. He has nominated a strong team of cabinet leaders to shepherd climate progress across the federal government – from the Environmental Protection Agency to the Department of Transportation to the Treasury.
States and organizations that held the line against the Trump administration’s rollbacks and led the way on new climate policy advances over the past four years are now poised to help the U.S. significantly accelerate action. For example, about half of the nation’s states have promised to meet the United States’ commitment to cut pollution under the Paris Agreement. Commitments by a dozen states and many more utilities and cities mean that one-third of electricity consumers are already on a path to receiving 100% clean electricity. Leading states have begun the transition to clean electric cars and trucks. And there is growing recognition that climate change and justice are inextricably linked, offering hope for more progress on creating an equitable clean energy future.
As we head into 2021, I feel grateful for the dedication and hard work of our grantee partners, and their creativity and rapid response to this year’s crises. And I am filled with renewed hope that the world will begin this crucial decade for climate justice at a sprint.