The US Climate Revolution at the climate conference

Everything US related at the US Climate Conference in Bonn is in some ways an outright climate revolution in the sense that it is a rebellion against the normal. So let’s mull over this for a bit today.

As I’m sure you are perhaps aware, there is the both the official US delegation and what they have been up to, and then there is also an unofficial US delegation doing distinctly different things.

Climate Change Solution: Coal

Climate revolution
Demonstrators at a presentation by the United States delegation to the United Nations climate change conference in Bonn, Germany, on Monday.

The one and only activity by the official Trump team has been the promotion of coal as the solution to Climate Change. It is quite frankly simply bizarre to see them offering a full-throated defense of fossil fuels. Since this had been highlighted well in advance, the reaction to this panel was exactly what you might anticipate. The one bit that almost everybody on the planet would applaud was perhaps the first ten minutes of it. As explained by the New York Times …

But even before the Trump team could make its case, the panel was disrupted for more than 10 minutes by scores of chanting and singing demonstrators. The protesters then walked out, leaving the room half empty. Throughout the remainder of the presentation, audience members shouted down and mocked White House officials who attempted to explain away President Trump’s stated view that global warming is a hoax.

Yes it was rude, but also well deserved. As noted later by Michael R. Bloomberg, the former New York mayor who has spent tens of millions of dollars on a campaign to shut down coal plants …

“Promoting coal at a climate summit is like promoting tobacco at a cancer summit.”

To be strictly fair, this official US delegation does bring something of value to the table – Carbon capture has a role to play. Unfortunately, perception and reputation matter when you are on the international stage, and so being the official representatives for a voracious anti-science climate change denying administration means that you have more or less painted a bullseye on your chest. If you also just happen to be an executive for a coal company, then it is inevitable that this is not exactly going to thrill the delegates at a climate conference. If indeed you wanted to provoke a negative hostile reaction by design, then it would be a truly hard struggle to do better than this panel run by the official US delegation. The true rebellion here was not the audience hostility, but rather was the thought that the promotion of fossil fuels within such a context was deemed to be a good idea.

Nuclear and carbon capture are critical to reducing CO2 emissions, but going to Bonn to promote the technologies without admitting climate change is a crisis is a logical absurdity,” – Josh Freed, director of the clean energy program

Indeed yes, how can anybody even begin to take seriously an administration that strives to promote solutions for a problem that they deny even exists. “Absurd” is perhaps a polite way of putting it.

The Unofficial US delegation

There is another US delegation attending the climate summit, and they are in open rebellion against the Trump administration, hence this is all unofficial within a federal context, but quite official at both a state and city level. They not only have a pavilion, but have been actively engaging with many at the climate conference. Here is a group photo of some of them …

Front row, left to right: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa; Bloomberg; COP23 President Prime Minister of Fiji Frank Bainimarama; and Governor Brown. Second row, left to right: Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto; Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts; California’s Secretary for Environmental Protection Matt Rodriquez; Rocky Mountain Institute CEO Jules Kortenhorst; Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland; and Walmart Senior Vice President of Sustainability Laura Phillips.

Their contribution is both meaningful and decisive. They have a Press Release in which they reaffirm the U.S. Commitment to the Paris Agreement – “We’re Here, We’re In and We’re Not Going Away” …

“When cities and states combine together and then join with powerful corporations, that’s how we get stuff done,” said Governor Brown at today’s event at the U.S. Climate Action Pavilion, a purpose-built exhibition space sponsored by U.S. non-federal leaders at COP23. “We’re here, we’re in and we’re not going away.”

Governor Brown and Bloomberg joined forces to launch America’s Pledge on climate change in July to help compile and quantify the actions of states, cities and businesses to drive down their greenhouse gas emissions consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement. Ahead of today’s event, the America’s Pledge report was submitted to the United Nations detailing, for the first time to the international community, the scope and scale of non-federal climate action in the United States following the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. Cities, states and businesses representing more than half the U.S. economy and population have declared their support for the Paris Agreement, including more than 2,300 signatories to the “We Are Still In” declaration.

As a stark contrast to the official US delegation, these are the people who truly matter. They, as elected officials of many US states, and cities, and also directors of powerful US business corporations, represent both the views and interests of the majority in the US.

Under2 – Virginia signs up

Left to right: MEC​ Thusi; Oregon Governor Brown; Minister Untersteller; Climate Group CEO Clarkson; Minister-President Kretschmann; Governor McAuliffe (seated); NextGen Amercica President Tom Steyer; California Governor Brown; and Minister Melançon.

There was also an Under2 Coalition signing up ceremony by Virginia at the climate summit. (Under2 is a group that is striving to keep Global temperature increases to under 2 degrees. ) With the addition of Virginia, the Under2 Coalition now includes 189 cities, states and countries collectively representing more than 1.2 billion people and $29.4 trillion GDP – equivalent to over 16 percent of the global population and 39 percent of the global economy.

“Virginia is driving clean energy investment and carbon reduction despite the President’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement,” said Governor McAuliffe. “In the absence of leadership in Washington, Virginia is stepping up to sign the Under2 Memorandum of Understanding. Virginia will meet the challenge of climate change head on, and we will do so in a way that grows our clean energy sector and supports our new Virginia economy.”

“It is great to see another US state ready and willing to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by committing to the Under2 Coalition,” said The Climate Group CEO Helen Clarkson. “This is another example of the strong leadership on climate action that we’ve seen from US states over the past few months, despite the position of the federal government. We hope that more sub-national governments around the world take up such ambitious climate action.”

One Last Thought

Yes, the unofficial US delegation is an open rebellion again the official US delegation, but when you have an administration that has made it official policy to abandon reality and set up shop in Narnia, then it is also a wholly appropriate response.

Doing nothing is not an option.

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