US Climate Leadership is back in the US White House…. and just in time, as the IEA showed that the demand for fossil fuels is set to grow significantly in 2021, given the 48 NDC’s from the 75 parties submitted before yesterday we’ll only cut emissions by 2.8% of our global climate agreement to date (UN Report 2021), and in large part the $16 trillion USD in CV 19 relief funds went directly to bolstering the fossil fuel industries (WRI 2021). 

Yesterday, #earthday2021 the #bidenharris2021 administration with #JohnKerry back in the climate negotiations game as US lead on International Climate Policy, committed to 50-52% + reductions of greenhouse gases from 2005 levels by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2050. Then, the US announced a Climate Finance plan, which included a doubling of climate finance to developing countries and a target of $100 billion USD “mobilized” for climate investment/year.  Listening to the virtual session, you could sense that the US’s economic promise at the onset created a positive tone, triggered a healthy competition, and stimulated targeted “pitching” of innovative climate solutions by countries–definitely proud of their plans, but also looking for partners to help finance them. 

Out the gate, it was super encouraging to see China and Russia, participate and add their contributions. “While accepting that there are many things that countries do not agree on; climate is not one of them. ” (China’s Yi Jinping) As China committed to peak emissions by 2030 and to being carbon neutral by 2060, I couldn’t help but think that the lag date reflected their calculation for optimizing economic development for their growing country, first and climate resilience for the world, second. And yet, China is so well positioned to be super-innovative now in greening the country– from green architecture, cooling systems, rice cultivation, wastewater management (WRI 2021), solar, electric transport, aquaculture… all of which they are doing; but I would challenge could do bigger, better, faster. Even though the US is back in the climate leadership game; there is plenty of room for both (all) countries can lead this global agenda. Also, figuring out how to shut down, replace, and stop production of coal plants (also the backbone or secure-reserve for RE-driven electrical power plants) fast and furious is going to be a critical part of China’s new energy plan (btw: also in India, Germany, Poland, and Eastern Europe). Here it’s important to note that it’s not just coal production in-country; but country finance of coal production in other countries, too (e.g. the 84 GW construction of coal plants financed by China in Vietnam, Indonesia and South Africa). How is it that when we know coal is a key culprit of air pollution (killing over 7 million people/annually) and of climate change that coal demand could still be projected to increase by 60% more than all renewables combined? Not cool, coal!  

The Russian Federation’s Vladimir Putin committed to double efforts to address climate change for the future of the planet, and suggested Russia’s avenues for doing so would be to focus on nuclear energy and carbon capture storage technology. He also suggested that they were piloting a carbon trading market in  region of Russia with the objective to go carbon neutral by 2025. This could be a great model for recreating low carbon local economies– one to watch. Wouldn’t it be a great sign of international cooperation if climate change became a peace-keeping force among our nations?  

India’s PM Modi focused on solar,  which makes sense as they have led the Intl. Solar Alliance for quite some years, and it would be good to see that alliance finally spread solar rays around the world. Thanks to Sadguru and others; Modi could also laud India’s tree planting efforts, which has been an empowering venture for the people, I believe. And on that note, India could be a great center for regenerative agriculture & soil carbon capture (a research area for TERI?), so maybe next time this can be a narrative to emphasize!? If we are to “ride the wave and not stop until our goal is reached” (Vivikanda quoted from PM Modi), then cutting out coal and advancing regenerative agriculture with recovery of traditional practices is going to be important for India and everyone. 

Justin Trudeau, our Canadian partner, is always a great advocate for empowering Indigenous Peoples and learning from them, their traditional practices that have sustained ecosystems for generations. And on that note, Brazil’s Bolsanaro does NOT have a great track record in this regard. So, his “pitch” for funding to protect the Amazon and ramp up actions against illegal deforestation should be considered with caution; as was also wisely highlighted in Jennifer Morgan’s Greenpeace reflection this morning from the summit. 

Japan’s new leader, Yoshihide Suga, spoke elegantly about climate change being a convening force for global collaboration, “not a drain on the economy; but rather a driving force” for a greener, healthier future. Japan’s commitment was to reduce GCC by 46% compared to 2013 levels by 2030. His focus was on energy efficiency and creating a virtuous circular economy, as well as adding 3B to the Green Climate Fund. This was good to hear, as WRI’s April 2021 assessment of the summit for key success points, included increased grant-based (not debt-heavy, loan-based investment, also emphasized by leadership from Gabon and South Africa) climate finance from both Japan and France. On that note,  President Macron focused on his One Planet Summit and focus on Climate Finance, also for the Global South (African countries).

EU Commissioner, Ursula von der Leyden made a big announcement that the day before the 27 countries that make up the EU made it climate law that the EU would be carbon neutral by 2050 and reduce emissions by 55% by 2030. And in her always positive, progressive tone; she painted a picture of this future as more innovative and healthy with new markets opening and new avenues for investments. She also promised that 1.8 B Euro would be earmarked from recovery funds to “climate-related goals” and emphasized that resources would go to nature-based solutions whenever possible. (This was my favorite moment.) 

“May our climate action be the engine of our global recovery and the compass for our global collaboration.” Ursula von der Leyden

 A quite serious German Chancellor Merkel reminded that to meet the EU’s commitment of 40% reduction of GCC emissions from 1990 levels by 2030 and carbon neutral by 2050 would be a herculean task and require everyone to fundamentally change the way we do business, work, and live. Justin Trudeau added that Canada would boost their reductions from 40% to 45% by 2030 based on 2005 levels–that this would be hard, but possible. He also  emphasized that Canada has now decided to fine pollution and ban single-use plastics across their massive (mostly wild nature) country, where they are now planting 2 billion trees.  Finally, they are also aggressively phasing out coal and decarbonizing the steal, cement, aluminum industries. All are climate policies to watch and learn from in the next year. On that note, collaboration, partnership, and forming new alliances was emphasized throughout the summit The US-India Partnership on Clean Energy,  the US-Japan Coalition on Decarbonization and Clean Energy, and Bangledesh assuming the role as the new global Center for Climate Adaptation. This is clearly the way forward, together. 

It’s good that all world leaders realize now that acting on climate is no longer about “bunny hugging” –UK’s Boris Johnson, but about the economy, jobs, nature, biodiversity loss, health, and human survival. As I was listening to Boris Johnson, I kept thinking, thank goodness for David Attenborough and BBC Nature’s amazing series… One Planet, One Ocean, Blue Planet, Color of Life. Sir David’s passion is infectious; his film productions, mesmerizing. All of his work has influenced the lives of so many of us, including world leaders, like Boris. It just reminded me … Education matters. Media matters. Of course, as the United Kingdom  is hosting the COP 26 in Glasgow this autumn and leading the #netzero worldwide challenge, it’s essential that they pioneer leadership and show the world that yes, you can cut GCC emissions by 42%, take the #climatechange seriously, and see economic growth upwards of 75%. 

 And in the end, we really do have to get back to  “Harmony with Nature” Chinese President Xi Jinping, also the title and contents of the book, “Harmony”, written by Prince Charles, who recently launched a new #NaturalCapitalAlliance to raise $10B fund for nature. 

 Nature is our ultimate guide through this CV19 and climate change, new economy,  tide.

 #climatesummit #bidenadministration  #climateemergency #climateaction #netzero  #leadership #nature #biodiversity #planetarypartnership #worldnews #UN #Davos #WEF #thriveglobal #newsroom


  • Catherine Cunningham, PhD

    Mission Possible: Awaken Natural Intelligence in Our World

    Natural Intelligence

    Dr. Catherine Cunningham, PhD is an ecologist, anthropologist, writer, filmmaker, and media host producing films, interactive experiences, and online multimedia for international clients who are focused on positive economic, social, and environmental win-win-win solutions to global conservation and climate change.

    Catherine has travelled, written, photographed, and filmed in 70 countries, producing creative films and music videos in support the UN Global Goals and the human+nature planetary health narrative. Visit Natural to see where her work has premiered internationally. Over 20 years, she has interviewed hundreds of global thought leaders to promote sustainable solutions to climate change and conservation in creative ways. Catherine has written numerous articles on climate change, nature, and regeneration. She’s currently writing two books: “Naturally Intelligent by Design” — a fine art science and culture book for families and “Natural Intelligence”— a guidebook for well-navigating a post COVID-19 world by following nature’s principles. Partnering with Eurovision News and Events, Catherine is also an independent media host— producing content on nature, climate, and regeneration; syndicated globally by EuroVision’s News Direct. She is a regular contributor to Thrive Global and Medium. She currently produces communications for the Prince Albert II Foundation and participates in programming @ the World Economic Forum on Climate Change, Nature, and Biodiversity. As an university educator, Catherine taught undergraduate and masters courses in corporate sustainability communications at Arizona State University; global sustainability at Chapman University; biology, ecology, botany, and environmental science at Denver State College and Front Range College. In 2016, she designed one of the first university courses on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (also online), contributing to youth action on the UN Global Goals. She also created a post-graduate program with UNESCO on the MAB (Man the Biosphere) reserves. Catherine earned her PhD in Ecosystem Science at ETHZ in Switzerland, studying climate impacts on mountain ecosystems. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Cultural Anthropology and International Peace Studies from the University of Notre Dame and a Masters degree from Utah State in Ecology. Catherine speaks fluent English and conversational Italian. She loves creative collaboration, media production, mountaineering, outdoor sports, yoga, wellness, and travel.