I am at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) 22nd Conference of the Parties (COP22). The meeting is 3,600 miles from the United States. I awoke this morning with the result of the U.S. presidential election as a push-notification from my husband. This post isn’t about the pendulum of American politics, nor the very obvious societal work we now so blatantly need to commit ourselves to. This is a reflection on climate work.
To be at CMA1, the first meeting of the Parties on the Paris Agreement. To get lost in the juxtaposition of our last blog post calling for international celebration. To look in the mirror and put my pantsuit on today, a mind numbing metaphor. To purposely use sentence fragments, because it’s the only way to write in the English language that gives enough pause indicative of absolute mourning. To gulp, grasp for hope, and insist that election results not impact the progress the global community has managed to call for year, after year, after year.
We lost, no doubt. But as any athlete will tell you it takes endurance, dedicated focus, strength, and sportsmanship to win later.
When walking down the Moroccan brick promenade of COP22 you hear delegates remark that he is a deal maker. That what he does on the climate change process will depend on the size of the hammer that allies hit him with on climate. American delegates are urging for a scaled-up presence of U.S. sub-national financial and GHG emission commitments (e.g. California, RGGI, WCI). In the absence of federal finance, CEOs are discussing an open call to the 189 Parties that submitted National Determined Contributions (NDCs) to require American companies operating in the international space to align corporate policies with NDCs. Public funding was never going to be enough to reach 1.5 degrees; scaled private investment in research and development of emission reduction solutions is now paramount. Secretary John Kerry will be here next week. Many are hoping his legal advisory team is putting in 24-hour days this weekend. Suffice it to say, we are reminded of our history with the Kyoto Protocol. Momentum has suffered, but today’s shock has not produced climate apathy.
As I sit at the GHG Management Institute exhibit booth, a Sudanese participant reminded me of her country’s thirty years of authoritarian politics. She is here. A British colleague commiserated noting parallels to Brexit. He is here. Other participants who are not even able to speak negatively of their national leaders. They are here.
Change may not go as fast or as rosy as we thought it would yesterday, but it’s important to remember we’re not alone in this feeling. As an American it’s easy to get caught up in the inaccurate notion that the U.S. federal system is the only super power able to make change. We can all still impart change. We have to. As optimistically naïve as this may seem, our work has progressed for 20 years because of the thoughtful and committed work of many, not because of an individual president.