Ignoring federal govt stand, US states to attend global climate change meet

A hall where the summit on climate change will be held in Bonn
A meeting hall for the COP23 summit| Source: Bonn International website

200 nations will gather in Bonn next week to implement Paris deal, five months after President Trump announced decision to withdraw from the pact.

Washington: There is still no clarity over the Trump administration’s final position on the Paris deal but that is not stopping more than a dozen US states from making their positions clear at a global climate conference to be held in Bonn next week.

Nearly 200 nations will gather at the conference that aims to implement the Paris agreement. President Donald Trump had in June announced his decision to withdraw from the Paris pact.

However, states such as California have now taken upon themselves to mark their official presence at the US government pavilion at the COP 23 talks in Bonn, due on 6-17 November.

The takeover of the US pavilion will be under the banner of ‘We are still in’ to tell the world that America is still one with the world on the Paris climate deal even if the Trump administration may have pulled out of it. Nearly 15 states have reaffirmed their commitment to Paris goals under the United States Climate Alliance led by California.

“California has been very active in promoting climate action and organising many states on the issue. We are, in fact, proselytising the issue of capping emissions,” Gary Gero, chief sustainability officer to Los Angeles County and former president of Climate Action Reserve told ThePrint.

“We will be taking over the US pavilion in Bonn because we strongly believe that climate action is important and also to show that America is still taking action even if the federal government is not. We will be holding the flame.”

Gero added that the Trump administration was going by “conventional wisdom” that thinks that environment action is detrimental to economic development.

“What we are trying to demonstrate here in California is that economic growth and climate action can go together,” Gero said, stressing that the issue can be looked at again if there is a change in the federal government in future.

Muthuswamy V. Swami, programme director of Florida Solar Energy Center in Orlando, feels that too much should not be made of the Trump administration’s decision to pull out of the Paris accord as states and counties are quite independent and free to act on their own policies.

The withdrawal from the Paris deal, in fact, may not even adversely impact the growth of renewable energy in the US, said Tedd Foley, senior vice-president at the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE).

“There is uncertainty over the Paris deal but not so much on renewable energy. There is $45-49 billion investment each year in renewable energy — 70 per cent of all new power in the US comes from renewable energy. The two may be separated and at the same time help achieve the outcomes outlined in Paris,” Foley added.

Former governor of Maryland, Parris Glendening, now president of a non-profit, Smart Growth America, pointed out that Trump ran his campaign with the same position on climate change and it was now up to the states to do the heavy lifting.

“People knew this was going to be the federal position on it…but there should not be such despair. I think the US will end up meeting most of the Paris outcomes. We have had hurricanes recently and the devastation that followed had everyone saying it was not normal,” Glendening told ThePrint.

“What was until now an abstract notion has hit home. Yes, it would be easier if the federal government helped and was an active and enthusiastic partner. But it is now for states and counties to do the heavy lifting.”

Many states, he said, have already signed agreements to do the same.

“Many companies are also consciously moving away from the position taken by the federal government. There will still be some states that may resist but significant and aggressive state action being taken, like the one taken by California, will mean much,” Glendening said.

Debra Rowe, president of the US Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development, also sounds a similar note of optimism. “Good news is that despite the Trump administration’s stand on the Paris deal, NGOs, institutions are working towards addressing climate change,” said Rowe, who is based in Detroit.

Meanwhile, the idea of climate change has become, what a scientist called, ‘political football’. There are reports that scientists are being barred by the federal government from attending the conference on climate change, the very term has been yanked off all official literature and speculation is rife that some states may even move court against the Environment Protection Agency.

(This reporter was in the United States recently on a US government exchange programme)

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