U.S. NGOs, Companies and States Moving Forward at UN Meeting, But Feds Are MIA

Gore and Bloomberg at the “We Are Still In” pavilion in 2017      Photo: Patrik Stollarz, AFP

The U.S. government is visibly absent here in Madrid — it does not have a meeting pavilion to showcase the nation’s efforts on climate change. 

  • But the U.S. is still well-represented at the UN Climate Meeting by an army of environmental groups, state and local governments, corporations, and philanthropists — Michael Bloomberg will speak at the COP today — and the U.S. Climate Action Center (an alliance of stakeholders including mayors, governors, universities, faith-based organizations, and corporations) is trying its best to fill the convener gap this year.
  • These organizations are proclaiming as loudly as they can “We Are Still In.”

Why This Matters:  The U.S. Democratic Members of Congress made a splash last week at the COP with the slogan We Are Still In, and the Climate Action Center adopted the hashtag #WeAreStillIn that has been trending on Twitter.  True enough.  President Trump has started the process of removing the U.S. from the treaty but he can’t finish it until a year from now.  And these other U.S. Stakeholders are putting up a brave front and have not taken their foot off the gas (bad pun) — and, in fact, are working to increase the actionable commitments by U.S. stakeholders.  But being “in” simply is not enough for the U.S., which had led the prior COPs and is the second-largest emitter.  The tiniest of countries like Niue, a small island in the Pacific with virtually zero emissions, is making a huge commitment as a nation to protect its ocean for the benefit of mankind.  They expect us to do the same.  The next U.S. election is a referendum on the future of U.S. climate action and leadership — if Trump wins re-election the U.S. government will not be here at all.

The U.S. Climate Alliance Says We Are Still Making Some Progress

The U.S. Climate Alliance, the bipartisan group of governors that are committed to climate progress, issued its annual report on progress yesterday and those states — including the 8 new ones that joined in 2019 — are moving ahead despite the stiff headwinds they are encountering from the Trump Administration.  The Atlantic Magazine (which had an advance copy of the report) characterized the results as “mixed” because the states in the Alliance are basically on track to reduce their emissions by 26% by 2025, but they could be reducing much more if the Obama Clean Power Plan were still in place.  And the 26% figure is supposed to be nationwide, and the non-Alliance states are only cutting by 3-11% by 2025 and their emissions could rise again after that under current trajectories.   So overall, we are going in the wrong direction, actually and symbolically.

And Now For the Cheerleaders

Today, Michael Bloomberg and other notables will speak to the U.S. stakeholders to continue to pump up the troops. And last night Al Gore tried to keep the fighting spirit alive with his rallying cry borrowed from Nelson Mandela, “it’s always impossible until it’s done….Always remember that the will to act is itself a renewable resource.”

To Go Deeper:  Read the full 2019 Report here.

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