This is the most important thing we want the world to know: ‘we are still in’

Inslee joins U.S. leaders in Bonn to affirm commitment to act on climate

Last June, Gov. Jay Inslee was sitting with nearly 100 other guests in the dining room of California Gov. Jerry Brown’s home at a lunch event to celebrate Fiji becoming the newest signatory to the Under2 MOU, an international coalition of national and subnational governments committed to ambitious climate action.

The lunch had particular significance in the wake of recent events. President Donald Trump had just announced his intention to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement. In response, Brown and Inslee, as well as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, had launched the bipartisan U.S. Climate Alliance with more than a dozen states committing to achieving their share of the U.S. greenhouse gas reduction target.

Gov. Jay Inslee and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown celebrate new members of the International Alliance to Combat Ocean Acidification while at the United Nations Climate Change Conference’s Conference of the Parties (COP23) in Bonn, Germany. Newest official members of the alliance are Fiji, Sweden, the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme, and the scientific and technical organization Pacific Community. Tokelau also announced its intention to join. (Official Office of the Governor photo)

So while what happened at that lunch was unprecedented, it wasn’t necessarily surprising.

Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama is also the president of COP23, the 23rd annual convening of nations to talk about next steps in global climate action. Right after signing the Under2 MOU, Bainimarama invited Inslee, Gov. Kate Brown of Oregon, and Jerry Brown to attend COP23 in Bonn, Germany, and deliver a message to the world that the U.S. was still in for the fight against climate change.

All three West Coast governors agreed. They would help a wide collection of U.S. voices stand in as the collective, representative voice of U.S. action on climate.

Gov. Jay Inslee delivers remarks as part of the closing plenary for Global Ocean Action Day during the United Nations Climate Change Conference’s 23rd Conference of the Parties, also known as COP23, in Bonn, Germany. Inslee was joined at the conference by other governors from the United States to reassure global leaders of American leadership on climate change. (Official Office of the Governor photo)

With every nation in the world — save the U.S. — formally committed to the Paris agreement, COP23 drew an estimated 25,000 participants representing nations, subnational governments, businesses, schools, universities, NGOs and faith communities.

The U.S. presence included many of the leading voices on climate. Inslee, Jerry Brown, Kate Brown and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe attended, as did numerous state legislators and assembly members, U.S. congressional members and dozens of organizations and local governments all helping to amplify the message “We Are Still In.” Other notable attendees included former Vice President Al Gore, as well as former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg sponsored the U.S. Climate Action Center, an impressive pavilion space designed to replace the U.S. Center normally hosted by the U.S. government, specifically to show the world that even if President Trump is out, U.S. leaders are still in.

Over the course of his four days in Bonn, Inslee spoke at numerous panels about the efforts underway in Washington and other West Coast states to promote clean energy and create clean tech jobs, and to remind the world that nearly 40 percent of the nation’s economy is represented by the governors of the U.S. Climate Alliance.

Gov. Jay Inslee joins, from left, Mexico’s Deputy of Environmental Policy Rodolfo Lacy, California Gov. Jerry Brown, and Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna to create the North American Climate Leadership Dialogue while at the United Nations Climate Change Conference’s 23rd Conference of the Parties (COP23) in Bonn, Germany. The partnership is composed of U.S. Climate Alliance states, Mexico and Canada with the goals of fighting climate change and supporting clean-energy growth across North America. (Official Office of the Governor photo)

Most notably, Inslee spoke of Washington’s Clean Air Rule, the nation’s first rule to cap and reduce carbon emissions from the largest polluters; his aggressive effort to promote electric vehicles with a goal of having 50,000 EVs in Washington by 2020; and significant investment in research and development of clean technology through the state’s Clean Energy Fund. The clean energy industry is growing at nearly twice the pace as other industries along the West Coast.

Inslee said state and local governments are demonstrating where the real action is happening on climate.

“The fundamental message at Bonn that we have come to deliver is that Donald Trump cannot stop us,” Inslee said during a panel discussion with West Coast governors. “This is the most important thing that we wanted the world to know and hear. You do not have an international treaty with 40 percent of the United States economy. You have something better, which is an action plan on the ground that’s cleaning up our environment.”
Gov. Jay Inslee participates in a panel discussion about the U.S. Climate Alliance during the United Nation’s Climate Change Conference’s 23rd Conference of the Parties (COP23) in Bonn, Germany. He was joined on the panel by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, California Gov. Jerry Brown, and former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. (International Institute for Sustainable Development photo)

A roundup of highlights from Inslee’s trip to Bonn:

Gov. Jay Inslee with a BMW electric car during the U.S. Climate Action Center at the United Nations Climate Change Conference’s 23rd Conference of the Parties (COP23) in Bonn, Germany. Much of the carbon fiber used to manufacture these lightweight cars is made by a company in the Moses Lake area.