Climate Voices

November 16, 2017
By: Melissa Hortman, Window Into COP23 Delegate

All the countries of the world are united – but the U.S. is on the outside looking in

The Conferences of the Parties (COPs) are full of many different activities.

Negotiations. There are official negotiations, of course, to fill out the operational details of the Paris Agreement. Some of the representatives of the various governments of the world are dedicated to these official meetings and making sure that a particular country’s point of view is incorporated into the text of the “Paris Rulebook” that negotiators have been working on since the moment the Paris Agreement was adopted on December 12, 2015. It is my understanding that the Rulebook will be substantially completed by next year’s COP24 in Poland.

Sharing best practices. People who work for national governments at departments like the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. EPA share information about the work they are doing in their countries that relates to climate change. Countries have different approaches to energy efficiency, fuel economy, renewable energy, and scientific research. Here, they showcase their work and see what other countries are up to. Countries showcase their efforts in their national “pavilions.” The national pavilions also create a space to interact with others. This year the United States does not have a pavilion – a striking absence for the country that has been known as “the world’s only remaining superpower.”

Organizing for action. In addition to the government representatives, many constituencies are represented here at the COP – businesses, youth, indigenous people, the higher education community, and non-governmental organizations like Climate Generation. People meet with like-minded individuals from around the world to share information and collaborate.

A notable absence. The United Nations has 196 members – 195 countries and the EU. All of them are here participating in the dialogue. The major players proudly showcase their countries’ climate actions in their pavilions. Since the U.S. federal government is a no-show here in Bonn in that regard, American citizens have stepped up to the plate, and instead of an official U.S. presence, we have the U.S. Climate Action Center. It looks like a collection of igloos, and it has housed an incredible amount of energy. This is where Americans have gathered, alongside global citizens, to share best practices. Today, I joined a panel of Minnesotans to talk about Minnesota’s incredibly successful Renewable Energy Standard, Solar Energy Standard, Community Solar Law, and our impressive corporations and nonprofits working to achieve climate action.

A funny note. The French pavilion has a sign you can hold that says #MakeOurPlanetGreatAgain. I’ve attached some pictures of country pavilions so you can get a sense of what others are doing to proudly showcase their commitments to climate action.