Photo credit: Michael Paparian

Dispatch from Bonn – Day Four

Posted by on November 10, 2017

Today, the U.S. Climate Action Center opened on the grounds of the United Nation’s climate conference.

The UN provided prime real estate to the American pavilion, just a few yards from the Bula Zone, the main negotiating area. To be clear, this is not the official U.S. pavilion — there is no such pavilion this year. This U.S. Center instead served as a meeting place for the “We Are Still In” coalition (as in, “we’re still the Paris Accord”).

It’s worth noting that the United States has no visible presence at COP23; the delegation office has a badly printed note taped to the door that reads, “for authorized persons only.” You’ve no doubt heard the news that Nicaragua and Syria have joined the Paris Accord, leaving the United States as the only nation on our fair planet to shun the climate agreement.

The U.S. Climate Action Center is housed in a large inflatable bubble (hey, no jokes about liberals living in their own bubble). It’s funded by Tom Steyer, Michael Bloomberg and Hewlett Foundation, and staffed by World Wildlife Fund and Climate Nexus.

The star of the opening session was James Brainard, Mayor of Carmel, Indiana. Mayor Brainard happens to be a Republican, and he expressed deep frustration about the state of his party. It was great to hear such a clarion voice of reason for climate action.

I took part in the next talk, “California’s Climate Regulatory Program: Recent Progress Informs Opportunities and Challenges,” moderated by Louis Blumberg of The Nature Conservancy, with comments by Point Blue’s Ellie Cohen, UNFCCC’s Nicolas Muller, and a great climate champion in California, Senator Ricardo Lara.

I discussed Climate Resolve’s innovative work on cool roofs and cool streets as well as our role in developing climate collaboratives in California.

I preached a bit as well — couldn’t help myself.

Adapting to our changing climate, I said, is going to be the great task of this generation . . . and the great task of the next and the next and the next.

By focusing on adaptation, we also have to change public perception about environmentalists. With a focus on the health and well-being of people, we demonstrate our true motivation, which is the care of others. Too often people think environmentalists are trying to push their own agenda on the rest of society when, in fact, we’re merely trying to save lives and protect nature. This, of course, sustains human life.

This is my last entry about the twenty-third UN Conference of the Parties. Though the conference continues for another week, urgent business requires my presence in Los Angeles.

In sum, COP23 surprised me. I arrived thinking it was going to be this overly formal diplomacy-heavy exchange with hoary speeches by protocol-bound officials. And, yes, there were those elements — but there was so much more. COP23 served as a superb gathering place for the world’s climate advocates to swap stories and learn.