Bonn, Germany – U.S. climate action was on full display during COP23, with over 100 prominent leaders from U.S. state and local governments, private sector and academia travelling to Bonn to voice support for the Paris Agreement and buoy confidence in the negotiations. American leaders used the flagship U.S. Climate Action Center - a first of its kind pavilion for American cities, states and businesses - as the base of their operations during the two weeks of negotiations.
The Action Center became a central landmark of the talks in Bonn, hosting governors, senators, a bipartisan group of 11 states, mayors and other elected officials, business leaders, and attendees from around the world. The We Are Still In network, in coordination with more than 30 organizations, operated the Action Center and hosted 44 events from its opening on November 9 to its closing on on November 16. At 27,000 square feet, the Action Center is ten times larger than any prior U.S. federal center at earlier UN climate talks.
Halfway through the COP, Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and California Governor Jerry Brown unveiled the first phase of America’s Pledge inside the Action Center, an effort to quantify the climate action of U.S. non-federal actors. Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama and UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa participated in the event to receive the pledge and gave applause to the bottom-up effort to fulfill and uphold America’s targets under the Paris Agreement.
Key findings from the report include that U.S. leaders representing over half of all Americans and $6.2 trillion of the U.S. economy are working together to deliver on the promise of the Paris Agreement and ensure the U.S. remains a global leader in the fight against climate change. Taken together, these actors represent a bigger economy than any nation outside the U.S. and China.
The efforts of non-federal climate leaders in the U.S. come as countries pledge to deepen their climate commitments. Phasing out coal is a particular focal point of COP 23. Claire Perry, UK’s Minister for Climate Change and Industry, and Catherine McKenna, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, launched the Powering Past Coal Alliance with 25 other countries, U.S. states and Canadian provinces.
Fostering International Cooperation
U.S. leaders established connections with countries from around the world as they work to drive action in the U.S. The U.S. Climate Alliance along with Mexico and Canada announced plans for the North American Climate Leadership Dialogue and Governor Brown discussed linking carbon markets with the European Union and China among other commitments.
Delivering on America’s Pledge
The America’s Pledge report, the first communication to the international community specifically addressing the scope and scale of non-federal climate action in the U.S., quantifies the outpouring of public support for the agreement since Trump’s withdrawal announcement. The #IAmStillIn effort delivered a petition to the UNFCCC with over 1 million signatures of Americans pledging their support for the Paris Agreement.
Leading at the State and Local Level
Climate leaders made several commitments throughout COP, including an announcement by Virginia Governor,McAuliffe issuing a proposed climate rule that would pave the way for the state to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and cities from across the globe agreed to the Bonn-Fiji Commitment to accelerate climate action. The release of Rocky Mountain Institute’s Carbon-Free City Handbook highlights 22 actions cities can take to move toward carbon neutrality in one year and points to cities where this transformation is already taking place..
Deepening Business Commitments
Investment in green bonds passed $100 billion for 2017 this week, including $14 billion in the U.S. alone, according to a new report by ClimateBonds. The three top American issuers were Apple, Fannie Mae, and the New York MTA. Microsoft made a pledge to reduce its operational carbon emissions 75 percent by 2030, BMW committed transition its external electric power purchases to 100% renewable energy by 2020, and PG&E announced the creation of a new $1 million Climate Adaptation Fund. Multiple businesses highlighted the progress they have made in reducing emissions in their businesses, supply chains, and land use.
Strengthening Climate Alliances
Representation from several non-federal climate groups, including We Are Still In, U.S. Climate Alliance, Pacific Coast Collaborative, and Under 2, used COP 23 as a time to announce new members and outlined their plans to meet the Paris Agreement.
Transportation in the Headlights
Transportation pollution, which now outpaces power sector emissions, took the spotlight for multiple U.S. events, including a panel where Senators Whitehouse and Markey vowed to fight Trump’s efforts to repeal American fuel standards. A coalition including the northeast and mid-Atlantic region formed to focus on clean transportation.
Returning Home Energized for Further Action
As American leaders return to the U.S., work turns to implementation of climate policies and preparing for announcements of even greater levels of climate action in the lead-up to the California Global Action Summit.
U.S. Climate Leaders Respond
“At Fetzer Vineyards, our business thrives while placing sustainable, climate-smart practices at the fore of our operations. We know that a low-carbon approach and growth aren't mutually exclusive, and in fact have seen our successes accelerate as we've become even more committed to regenerative practices that revitalize and regenerate ecosystems and communities, advance the health and well-being of employees, and produce sustainable growth for our shareholders." Cindy DeVries, Chief Operating Officer, Fetzer Vineyards
“Climate change is one of the most significant and urgent issues facing business and society today, and businesses must play a lead role in driving progress toward a circular, low-carbon economy. HP supports the Paris Agreement, and we are committed to working with governments, businesses, and organizations to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius.” Nate Hurst, Chief Sustainability and Social Impact Officer, HP
“Now is the time for industry to transform how we look at our role in creating a more sustainable world. Sustainable businesses are more resilient, more relevant and, increasingly, they save money.” Barry Parkin, Chief Sustainability Officer, Mars
“Microsoft has been a strong supporter of the Paris Agreement. This week, we took the next step in our journey towards meeting those targets and pledged to reduce our operational carbon emissions 75 percent by 2030. The business community plays an important role in scaling up climate action and we were excited to engage with so many corporate leaders that are taking bold steps to address climate change.” Michelle Patron, Director of Sustainability Policy, Microsoft
“S&P Global are acting on climate because we recognize that financial services companies have an important role to play in enabling governments, companies and organisations to meet the goals that they adopt at conferences such as COP23. We have developed the tools to ensure that capital can be allocated efficiently and effectively and that the risks associated with climate change can be quantified and reflected in assessments of credit risk. These tools allow investors to understand the impact their investments will have on climate change and align their investments with their principles on climate issues.” Michael Wilkins, Managing Director, Environmental & Climate Risk Research, S&P Global Ratings
“Through the years, we’ve seen that integrating sustainable practices into our operations improves business performance, spurs technological innovation, inspires brand loyalty, and boosts employee engagement. Our suppliers recognize the opportunity to realize those same benefits in their businesses. By working together we can accelerate progress within our respective companies and deep in our shared supply chains.” Katherine Neebe, Director for Sustainability, Walmart
City and State Leaders
"The science is getting clearer, extreme weather events are getting more frequent and all of that leads to more understanding, more clarity and more action. Residents on the Pacific Coast know these impacts first hand - and we're not waiting to act." Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. of California
“We are in the fight of our lives against global climate change, and California has to lead if we are going to win. California has come a long way in cleaning our smoggy skies and creating green jobs. But as anyone who has ever fought for respect, basic rights, or better wages will tell you, progress isn’t linear and victories aren’t permanent. Now more than ever, we have to work to protect the victories we’ve earned and to ensure that everyone gets to benefit in the country we are trying to build.” Ricardo Lara, California Senator
“The Trump Administration is forfeiting the United States’ role as the global leader in the fight against climate change. Participation in the Paris Agreement means moving toward a sustainable economy that creates jobs while reducing greenhouse gases at the same time. Oregon joins with West Coast leaders to prepare for the clean energy economy of the future, not run away from it.” Governor Kate Brown of Oregon
“The West Coast offers a blueprint: this is how you build a thriving, innovative economy that combats climate change and embraces a zero-emission future. We know it’s possible because we’re doing it.” Governor Jay Inslee of Washington
"I came to Bonn because as a true conservative I hope for the best and I plan for the worst. A conservative should listen to the unassailable consensus reached by the world’s scientists that climate change is a serious problem that we must meet with urgent action. Moreover, the President likes to talk about America’s greatness but we are greatest when we keep our word. That is why I’m in Bonn to help America keep the promise it made to the world when it entered into the Paris Agreement. I believe that addressing climate change is in America’s interest. It’s in America’s interest to stand with the global community. At this round of UN climate talks, we told the world that Americans from all fifty states are still in on the Paris Climate Agreement. That’s the message I plan to take back to Carmel with me." Mayor James Brainard, Carmel, Indiana
"Our agricultural and manufacturing economies depend on the Mississippi River. International negotiations that impact our commodities trade must take into account our corridor if our agricultural exports are to remain competitive. -Mayor Frank Klipsch, Davenport, Iowa
"Most of the world's food and fresh water comes from river basins and those basins are being compromised by climate change. As representatives of the planet's largest food producing River, it is up to us to help ensure food and water security for the future." - Mayor Lionel Johnson, St. Gabriel, Louisiana
“There is no doubt that higher education must play a pivotal role in Climate Action in the United States now more than ever! We are educating the future global citizens and climate leaders. “We Are Still In” for the long haul.” Dianne F. Harrison, President of California State University, Northridge
“It was a pleasure to join my fellow US college presidents for the Second Nature panel at COP23 sending the strong message that “We’re still in” when it comes to higher education’s commitment to tackling the challenges of climate change.” David Finegold, President of Chatham University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
“It was powerful to discuss with my peer US College presidents how community colleges and universities can work together to combat climate change. Engaging our campuses in best practices, educating the clean tech workforce, raising awareness of sustainable practices across sectors and developing the next generation of leaders are ways we can demonstrate that we are still in.” Mark Mitsui, President of Portland Community College
"With the backing of over one million people, communities across America are sending a clear signal that the fossil-fueled Trump administration does not represent us. As Trump and his billionaire cronies deliberately neglect the needs of communities, ignore global climate commitments, and continue with their divisive schemes, we are getting to work from the ground-up to create powerful and lasting change. With regression at the federal level, elected officials at all levels must stand with the people calling a world free of fossil fuels with 100% renewable energy for all. From Bonn to New York to Portland and beyond, we are rising united to demand a fast and just transition to a fossil free world that puts people and our planet first." Thanu Yakupitiyage, U.S. Communications Manager with 350.org and coordinator of the U.S. People's Delegation
“American mayors, governors, businesses and universities came to Bonn under a common banner to reassure the world that the United States is still in on climate action. Their message was received and helped give governments confidence to accelerate implementation of the Paris Agreement. Looking ahead, these real American leaders need to return from Bonn to lead a groundswell of new commitments from businesses, cities and states to keep the America’s pledge under the Paris Agreement within reach.” Lou Leonard, Senior Vice President, Climate Change and Energy, World Wildlife Fund
We Are Still In is a network of more than 2,500 mayors, governors, CEOs, and college presidents and leaders from a growing number of other sectors that are committed to supporting climate action to help meet the U.S. emission reduction targets under the Paris Agreement.