Rogue U.S. Delegation Makes Huge Splash at COP23

COP 23 has turned out to be quite the party. While the official delegation is somewhat smaller than previous groups, given President Trump’s stated desire to leave the global agreement, a private American coalition is out in full force to demonstrate just how little a Federal withdrawral impacts America’s ability to meet its intended nationally determined contribution.

The U.S. promised contribution to the global fight against climate change is an economy-wide target of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28 per cent below its 2005 level in 2025. This goal is considered to be a science-based goal, in line with 80 percent below 2005 by 2050. These goals are in spitting distance of a meaningful contribution to the collective effort to keep the global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius.

A huge coalition of U.S. states, cities and businesses supporting climate action is hosting the U.S. Climate Action Center pavilion separate from the official U.S. delegation. Lisa Friedman describes the alternate U.S. delegation in stark contrast to the official one:

The office of the official American delegation at the international climate talks here is almost always closed… But there’s another group of Americans who are happy to be found. They are gathered in a nearly 27,000-square-foot inflatable tent adorned with American flags and red, white and blue signs proclaiming that states, cities and businesses are “still in” the Paris agreement, despite President Trump’s vow to leave it.

The alternate American pavilion, with its free espresso truck, tins of themed M&M’s and wireless internet that tells new users “the U.S. has not gone dark on climate action,” has rapidly become a hub of activity at the United Nations global warming negotiations taking place this week.

On Saturday, this unsanctioned group launched America’s Pledge, a report by California Gov. Jerry Brown and Michael Bloomberg (written by World Resources Institute and Rocky Mountain Institute) that analyzes the breadth and influence of U.S. non-federal action on climate change. In fact, the actions of those outside the federal sphere are quite substantial — the GDP of this group is just over $10 trillion — sitting third after China and before Japan on the global stage.

That means that in addition to all those zeroes, this group of business leaders, states and municipalities controls an enormous amount of carbon flow. And the good news is, this group is poised to curb a lot of it:

The report highlights the 10 states with cap-and-trade programs and 96 U.S. businesses that have already set internal carbon prices (linking the cost of doing business to how much carbon was expended). It also finds some major sources of carbon reductions that will continue with or without federal mandates:

  • Electricity generation: Twenty-nine states, representing more than half (56 percent) of retail electricity sales in the country, have mandatory renewables commitments in place.
  • Transportation: Thirty U.S. cities have committed $10 billion to purchase 114,000 electric vehicles (EVs) for their municipal fleets—a number roughly equivalent to all the EVs sold in the country in the first eight months of 2017.
  • Building and industrial energy use: More than 400 companies, representing more than 13 percent of total U.S. commercial building space, and almost 2,600 industrial facilities have voluntarily committed to reduce their energy use through the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings / Better Plants program.
  • Methane: Methane, also known as natural gas, leaks out of landfills and contributes to global warming. Twenty states have programs set up to develop landfill gas-to-energy projects, which capture methane to use for electricity generation.
  • Hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) Emissions: HFCs are up to 12,000 times more potent than CO2 and are used in refrigeration, air-conditioning, building insulation and other applications. Forty-three supermarkets have committed to reducing their HFC emissions, with 533 individual stores becoming certified under this program since 2008.
  • Land-use and forestry: More than 3,000 communities are implementing urban forestry measures through Tree City USA, including maintaining a tree board or department and having a community tree ordinance.

These are all major bright spots in a somewhat dismal story of climate change impacts and global collaboration. Of course, things would be easier if the federal government brought its $8.5 Trillion in economic activity to bear.

When you encounter a difficult problem in life, sometimes the only way out is through. The alternate U.S. delegation showcases another viable option: going around.

Climate & Environment

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Jen Boynton

Jen Boynton is editor in chief of TriplePundit and editorial director at 3BL Media. With over 6 million annual readers, TriplePundit is the leading publication on sustainable business and the Triple Bottom Line. Prior to TriplePundit, Jen received an MBA in Sustainable Management from the Presidio Graduate School. In her work with TriplePundit she's helped clients from SAP to PwC to Fair Trade USA with their sustainability communications messaging. When she's not at work, she volunteers as a CASA -- court appointed special advocate for children in the foster care system. She enjoys losing fights with toddlers and eating toast scraps. She lives with her family in sunny San Diego.

One response

  1. I’m embarrassed to say that I live in the Sunshine State of Florida, amazing, right? The Sunshine State, but solar PV is still nothing compared to other states. Since 2010, I have been a solar contractor here pushing solar, and even with the 30% Federal ITC is not enough to make people move to solar PV. I live in the country, and was able to erect a 20kW system under the nose of the bureaucrats, and I actually make money on the NEM (Net Energy Metering) contract with my member-owned co-op utility. The problem with solar is the monopolies — its all about the reverse incentives to keep people from going solar. Still, at about $1/Watt hardware cost, I would advise people to put as much solar PV as they can on their property. If solar, wind and storage are going to give energy freedom to the People, then the PUC’s need to be seriously reformed, and the puppets on the PUC need to be taken out of office. In states where solar is flourishing, this is where PUC’s have gotten back under the control of the People.

    The reverse incentives are simple to understand. Let’s say you want to put up > 11kW, well, then you need an extra $1M homeowners insurance policy. What’s with that? That’s called extortion. Save money from the utility monopoly and pay the savings to their insurance monopoly buddies. I own my home, and I have never paid a dime to the insurance companies. I’ll take my chances and put money in my own insurance fund, thank you. Sadly, if you do not own your home, then the insurance companies eat you alive. The insurance scam is enemy number 1. The utility fiefdom monopoly you live under is enemy number 2. Get some control over these 2 rats, and then you will see solar come alive in states where solar is practically non-existent right now. Call your PUC and ask them why they are corrupt puppets, and why solar PV is being held back; ask them if they have any ties to energy monopolies like Warren Buffett’s NV Energy, Exxon Mobil, Duke Energy, TECO, Gulf Energies, FPL (NextEra), Xcel, etc. If Florida wants to truly be the Sunshine State, then the power monopolies needs to be seriously reformed, and I am sure that holds true in other states where you do not see renewable energies growing.

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