Four years of the Under2 Coalition

Author: Franz Untersteller, Minister of the Environment, Climate Protection and the Energy Sector Baden-Württemberg
Reading time: 5 minutes
21 May 2019
Franz Untersteller, Umweltministerium/KD Busch

In this blog, Franz Untersteller, Minister of the Environment, Climate Protection and the Energy Sector Baden-Württemberg, reflects on the past four years of state and regional climate action through the Under2 Coalition.

The Under2 Coalition is already celebrating its fourth anniversary. In 2015, a few subnational governments decided to launch a new coalition for subnational climate leadership. Since then, a real success story has ensued, resulting in the Under2 Coalition being recognized as the international collaborative initiative with the greatest potential to reduce emissions. Let me reflect on how it all began…

In July 2014, I went on a fact-finding tour to California. I was visiting amongst others the production facilities of TESLA, the campus of software corporation SAP and the world’s leading exhibition for the solar industry, Intersolar. One of my bilateral meetings was with the former Governor of California, Jerry Brown, in San Francisco.

At this informal meeting, we explored the idea of how to do more to fight climate change. Who else but us, two states with huge economic strength and technological leadership, could ramp up climate ambition? And would it not have more impact if we acted together? After our meeting, legal experts and public servants from California and Baden-Württemberg started engaging with each other to find a common basis for our intents.

We drafted a statement of intent called “Subnational Global Climate Leadership Memorandum of Understanding”. A catchier name was soon found, and the declaration became known as the “Under2 MoU” referring to its two objectives to limit global warming to well below 2°C and to limit the annual carbon footprint to under 2 tons per capita by 2050.

Twelve regions sign the MOU

In May 2015, ten other states and regions joined us for the official launch event of the Under2 Coalition: British Columbia and Ontario (Canada), Oregon, Vermont and Washington (United States of America), Acre (Brazil), Baja California and Jalisco (Mexico), Catalonia (Spain) as well as Wales (United Kingdom).

Baden-Württemberg was delighted to be supported by several of our partner regions, especially by the Four Motors for Europe. Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Catalonia and Lombardy helped us to spread the word in their countries and among their partner regions worldwide to mobilize new members for our climate coalition. The Under2 MoU went viral, so to speak. By the end of 2015, more than one hundred states and regions had signed the Under2 MoU. This sent a strong signal to COP21 in Paris and helped national governments adopt the ambitious goals of the Paris Agreement.

Global growth

In December 2015, The Climate Group in London became the Secretariat of the coalition. This enabled us to reach a completely new level; the Under2 Coalition now includes more than 220 members from six continents. We represent more than 1.3 billion people and about 43% of the global economy.

For me, it is an enormous success to have so many states and regions declaring their commitment to climate action – especially when considering the relatively short amount of time it has taken to build this momentum. The broad membership of the Under2 Coalition shows that we have struck a chord and indicates the importance of maintaining diversity within the climate movement. If we look at emerging movements like the school strikes and Friday for Future youth demonstrations it is obvious that the public, especially the young, want action and I’m so glad that we undertook this process to deliver the change needed

However, we have not reached our targets yet – in fact, we still have a long way to go. In many states and regions, the discussions on how we are going to reach the climate targets have only just begun. These discussions are not easy. In addition, the goalposts shifted last year, and we now know that we must achieve a world of no more than 1.5C of warming to avoid devastating damage to our planet.

Integrated climate action

This means that we must take substantial action. In recognition of this, this week the state of Baden-Württemberg is co-hosting the International Conference on Climate Action – ICCA2019 – with the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety and the City of Heidelberg. Through interactive discussions, ICCA2019 aims to strengthen climate change mitigation by improving coordination and cooperation across all levels of government. By working together, we want to lift climate action to a new level. I hope that we can collectively be encouraged by the recent public engagement to push ourselves further, faster, to deliver what is needed.

Times are changing, faster than ever before and states and regions in the Under2 Coalition need to be at the forefront of that change. We need to set ourselves new, more ambitious targets. When we are leaders rather than followers, when we dream big, when we hold ourselves and each other to account, we can be greater than the sum of our parts. We are in the prime position to influence both our citizens and our national governments, and we must take full advantage of this opportunity.

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