State and regional leaders vow to prioritize the climate crisis and social justice

24 September 2020

Leaders of state and regional governments around the world have come together on the final day of Climate Week NYC to reaffirm their commitment to the climate crisis and their priorities for building a better future.

The Under2 Coalition, an ambitious network of over 220 state and regional governments, today announced the Governor of California – who yesterday made a major commitment to phase out sales of internal combustion engines by 2035 across the state –, the Governor of Querétaro, the First Minister of Scotland and the Premier of KwaZulu-Natal as new co-chairs  to lead action on climate change over the next two years.

The Coalition is the biggest global network of states and regions dedicated to bold climate action in line with the Paris Agreement. Its membership currently represents 43% of the global economy, meaning that work undertaken collectively here has the potential to drive meaningful and lasting change at an international scale.

Under2 Coalition Co-Chairs, 2020 - 2022:

  • Sihle Zikalala, Premier, Government of KwaZulu-Natal and Co-chair for Africa
  • Nicola Sturgeon MP, First Minister, Government of Scotland and Co-chair for Europe
  • Governor Francisco Domínguez Servién, Government of Querétaro and Co-chair for Latin America
  • Governor Gavin Newsom, Government of California and Co-chair for USA and Canada

The new roles, which will decide the Coalition’s objectives and policies for the next two years, were announced during the Coalition’s General Assembly at Climate Week NYC 2020 – the largest international climate summit of the year. This annual members’ event, which usually takes place at the fringes of the UN’s Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP), was moved to a new date due to COVID-19 and took place entirely online for the first time in its history.

Here, watched by hundreds of participants from the Under2 Coalition, leaders set the tone for strong climate leadership at state and regional level and the need for a just transition following the devastation of the global pandemic. They also spoke of the opportunity regional governments now have to rebuild in a more sustainable way: reflecting the needs of all people.

In a week where China announced its intention to strengthen its climate targets ahead of COP26, the new co-chairs debated the role of states and regions in pressing for greater ambition at national government level. With the Climate Decade now fully underway, where the world must halve global emissions by 2030, the need for action at all levels of government has become more urgent. Many policies and technologies being used by regions can be replicated country-wide: bringing cleaner air, improvements to health and enhanced biodiversity.

Governor Gavin Newsom, Government of California:

“I’m here in a state that’s experiencing extremes, the likes of which we had predicted, 10, 20, 30 years from today. They’ve come to this state and they’ve manifested now. ‘Later’ is over. So I’m here with great expectations to share best practices, to advance our collective ideals, and I’m really grateful for this remarkable collaboration that’s taken shape. I hope we can take it to a whole other level in the next few years.”  

Nicola Sturgeon MP, First Minister, Government of Scotland:

“Scotland is deeply honoured to serve as European co-chair of the Under2 Coalition. We mustn’t lose sight of the greatest long-term challenge, and biggest moral obligation, facing our world, which is, of course, is the climate emergency. As co-chair from Europe, Scotland will try to put inclusion and justice at the heart of the Coalition’s work. States and regions must work together to press for change and to turn our own ambitions into action and reality.”

Sihle Zikalala, Premier, Government of KwaZulu-Natal:

“As co-chair of the Under2 Coalition we are working to persuade more governments, regions and cities to join us under the umbrella of the Under2 Coalition and in the campaign of net zero. We are working in the SADC (South African Development Community) regions to engage with countries such as Mozambique, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Tanzania at a subnational level. Our campaign is ongoing and my vision is to ensure that Africa is participating, led by the Under2 Coalition.”

Governor Francisco Domínguez Servién, Government of Querétaro:

“Today we face a global climate crisis. In Querétaro we are not, nor will we be, indifferent to this reality. Querétaro was elected as co-chair of this coalition for Latin America and I offer my gratitude to members for their vote of confidence. We will live up to this responsibility, raising an inclusive and proactive voice in the region to mitigate the effects of climate change.” 

Tim Ash Vie, Director, Under2 Coalition, commented:

“I am delighted to welcome four powerful new state and regional voices to the leadership of the Under2 Coalition. Each of these members has shown their commitment to reducing emissions and to bringing about positive change where they are. I look forward to working with them in taking this transformative action to a global scale, through their leadership as co-chairs.

“Whether by setting net-zero emissions targets, driving the adoption of zero-emission vehicles or implementing new climate laws, Under2 Coalition members are at the forefront of climate action. It is time for their voices to be heard and for our collective expertise to be used to take the action we desperately need to fight climate change.”

The co-chairs will be supported in their work by international non-profit, the Climate Group, which acts as Secretariat to the Coalition, and the Under2 Coalition’s Steering Group of governments* drawn from across the membership. This group reflects the breadth and diversity of the Coalition’s members and ensures that all states and regions have an equal voice in the decision-making process.

Notes to Editors

New co-chairs of the Under2 Coalition are joining the leadership of the Under2 Coalition in its fifth anniversary year. They follow Baden-Württemberg, KwaZulu-Natal, Santa Fe and Washington, who led the Coalition from 2018-2020.

*Full list of Under Coalition Steering Group members for 2020-2022:

  • Basque Country, Spain
  • Baden-Württemberg, Germany
  • Catalonia, Spain
  • Emilia-Romagna, Italy
  • Hawai’i, USA
  • Lombardy, Italy
  • Minnesota, USA
  • North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
  • Pastaza, Ecuador
  • Québec, Canada
  • South Australia, Australia
  • Victoria, Australia
  • Wales, UK
  • Yucatán, Mexico
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