This past Sunday marked the end of the longest ever Conference of Parties (COP) negotiations, the annual meeting of the 197 countries that are parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The U.S. was represented by a delegation led by Ambassador Marcia Bernicat (a graduate of Lafayette College!) In addition, a group of Democratic senators led by Nancy Pelosi attended, as did Michael Bloomberg, John Kerry, Al Gore, representatives of the city of Pittsburgh, and representatives of several states, businesses, and indigenous communities. This year’s negotiations discussed the last unresolved pieces of the 2015 Paris climate agreement; how to manage international carbon trading; and support for developing countries experiencing more extreme storms, droughts, and sea level rise impacted by climate change; among other topics. All of these issues are important for governments around the world for planning how they will reduce their emissions to limit global warming. Unfortunately, as described in the following New York Times article, the talks were largely unproductive, meaning we will have to wait longer for international decisions about these important issues while many of the biggest emitters’ national policies continue unchanged.
However, a lack of action on the international or national level does not mean climate action on the whole has stagnated. Many groups of people have banded together to reduce emissions in order to minimize the negative impacts of climate change. Such organizations include World War Zero, Sunrise Movement, the Climate Reality Project, 350.org, and many others. A report released earlier this month by America’s Pledge, an initiative started by Michael Bloomberg and former California governor Jerry Brown, found that the U.S. states, cities, counties, universities, business, faith groups, and other entities who have committed to local action in line with the emissions reduction pledge the U.S. made in the Paris Agreement make up over two-thirds of national GDP and over half of national greenhouse gas emissions. These actors are pursuing a variety of paths toward the healthy and prosperous future they want by incentivizing renewable energy use, investing in electrification of vehicles and buildings, improving infrastructure, and using local power to change building codes, zoning, and transportation. Easton, Allentown, and Bethlehem have all signed on to this “We Are Still In” coalition. Read more about how other cities are acting on their pledge in the following NBC News article.
https://nyti.ms/2PLkJaU U.N. Climate Talks End With Few Commitments and a ‘Lost’ Opportunity – New York Times
https://www.nbcnews.com/science/environment/city-led-lights-how-carmel-indiana-other-u-s-cities-n1099336 In wake of Trump’s withdrawal from Paris climate accord, small-town USA says ‘we are still in’ – NBC News