Update on CoP23: “We Are Still In”

by Hannah Stewart

For anyone who’s gotten a bit confused, or simply lost track of all the news that we’ve been hearing about climate change lately, here’s a quick recap of recent events:

In December of 2015, representatives from nearly every nation in the world met in Paris during the 21st international Conference of the Parties (CoP) and agreed on a goal to keep the global average temperature rise to 2℃ below pre-Industrial levels, and below 1.5℃, if possible. According to scientists, the 2℃ mark represents the upper limit that the planet can tolerate before humanity begins to experience, “longer droughts and more intense heat waves, which could cause big disruptions to the world’s food supply...sea levels could rise several feet, which would flood many coastal communities in the U.S. and potentially cause large migrations of people from countries like Bangladesh and India and Vietnam.”

On June 1st, 2017, President Donald Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the Paris Agreement, an action which we cannot actually do until November of 2020 (which is around the same time American voters will choose who the next president will be). Meanwhile, the President of France offered a new home to, “all scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, responsible citizens who were disappointed by [Trump’s] decision.”

In November of 2017, just before the 23rd CoP, war-stricken Syria joined the list of nations to agree to the Paris Agreement, leaving the United States as the only country left on the outside. The conference itself lasted from November 6-17, in Bonn, Germany.

whew That’s a lot of hyperlinks. Ok, on to the good stuff.

Just because the President and the federal government aren’t working towards America’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) doesn’t mean that we’re standing idly by. Each country that signed the Paris Agreement submitted an NDC, which is a voluntary, long-term plan, committing to reducing a self-determined quantity of greenhouse gases.

Even though this was the first time in years that federal delegates from the U.S. did not have a pavilion at a CoP, the U.S. Climate Action Center did. And it was TEN. TIMES. LARGER. than any prior U.S. federal center.

Over 100 leaders from American state and local governments, indigenous peoples, investors, entrepreneurs, corporations, and academics traveled to Bonn, hosted 44 events, and drew crowds that numbered in the thousands. Using the hashtag #WeAreStillIn, the coalition has “stepped forward to reaffirm their commitment to the Paris Agreement,” according to former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the UN’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change. Founded after Trump’s announcement to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, We Are Still In now includes: mayors from more than 25 cities across the country, over 300 colleges and universities, myriad corporations such as Mars, L’Oréal, and Google, and NGOs like WWF and the Environmental Defense Fund. Together, the coalition represents $6.2 trillion of the U.S. economy. $6.2 trillion is larger than every other country’s economy, with the exceptions of the U.S. and China.

Separate from We Are Still In, but affiliated, is America’s Pledge. Spearheaded by Michael Bloomberg and California Governor Jerry Brown, America’s Pledge will compile and quantify the actions of “non-Party actors” as they work to to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Non-Party actors are the sub-national institutions and groups who did not sign the agreement themselves (such as State governments, corporations, and academic institutions), but have a role to play nonetheless. The ultimate goal for America’s Pledge is for the United States to meet its NDC from the Paris Agreement, even without the federal government. According to Robert C. Orr, one of the architects of the Paris Agreement, the U.S. is already halfway to that goal.

To get involved and stay up to date on America’s latest initiatives and success stories, go to We Are Still In (www.wearestillin.com), and follow We Are Still In and America’s Pledge on Twitter and Facebook!