COP 23 Day 6: ‘We Are Still In’ – Two American Faces at COP 23

by Casey Catherine Miller

With Trump’s announcement to withdraw from the Paris Agreement earlier this year, all eyes have been on the role of the United States at COP 23, and the impact Trump’s decision will have on negotiation progress.

There are two distinct faces to American representation at the conference this year. One is the usual negotiations team, which although smaller than usual, is nonetheless present. The process of withdrawing from the Paris Agreement won’t be completed until November 4, 2020 (interestingly, just one day after the next Presidential Election), so a delegation has been sent to represent American interests in the implementation of the agreement.

Although reports suggest that this team has been fairly constructive so far, Trump’s position is certainly being felt. The negotiating team has not stepped into the leadership role it once assumed, and for the first time in 20 years, the United States’ government does not have a pavilion at the conference. Furthermore, the administration is set to host an event at the COP next week promoting coal, natural gas and nuclear energy as an answer to climate change. This is expected to provoke strong reactions here in Bonn.

In contrast, over one hundred American state, city and business leaders are participating at COP 23, as part of the We Are Still In movement. 2,500 American leaders have signed the We Are Still In Declaration, committing themselves to delivering on the promise of the Paris Agreement, and showing the world that US leadership on climate change extends well beyond federal policy.

We Are Still In has established the US Climate Action Center, a pavilion and forum where dozens of American leaders are convening throughout the negotiations. Activities have kicked-off in the past couple of days, with events being led by Governor Jerry Brown from California and Michael Bloomberg, former Mayor of New York City.

The jam-packed venue, widespread American presence, and sheer energy at the US Climate Action Center this morning (even on a rainy Day 6 at COP!) showed that the even in the absence of federal leadership on this issue, Americans are continuing to play a central role in the climate change agenda. From Senator Jeff Merkley’s ‘100 By 50 Act’ – which lays out a roadmap for a transition to 100% clean and renewable energy in the US by 2050 – to the City of New York’s commitment to climate resilient planning and development, this morning proved that there’s still plenty of reason for optimism.

Follow the COP23 delegation’s daily video blog here!