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.
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.
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.
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.”
A roundup of highlights from Inslee’s trip to Bonn:
- The U.S. Climate Alliance announced a new partnership with Canada and Mexico, creating a North American Climate Leadership Dialogue. This is the first major international engagement of the U.S. Climate Alliance, and the interest of national governments in engaging directly with U.S. governors in the Alliance demonstrates the credibility of the Alliance’s effort.
- Five new nations announced their intent to join the International Alliance to Combat Ocean Acidification, of which Washington is a founding member. Several of the member island nations are among the first to be at risk of disappearing due to sea level rise.
- The Pacific Coast Collaborative issued a report card recapping regional climate accomplishments and noting that regional GDP has grown 20 percent since 2005 while total emissions have declined more than 6 percent.
- Washington became the first U.S. state to join the new Powering Past Coal Alliance, promising to phase out the use of all coal-fired electricity and to place a moratorium on new coal power without operational carbon capture and storage.
- The U.S. Climate Alliance announced a partnership with Resources for the Future and the Climate Impact Lab to resume crucial analytical work abandoned by President Trump that calculates the costs related to carbon pollution. Such analysis is used by numerous government entities as a resource for policy-making and deliberation.
- Trump officials attracted hundreds of protesters at an evening panel discussion to promote coal production. Inslee and Kate Brown held a pre-emptive press conference lambasting the administration’s advocacy of coal at a time when the world is focused on the transition to clean energy.
View photos from the governor’s trip to Bonn here: