Back from Bonn: Where to go from Here
By Michael Green, Executive Director
I arrived in Bonn with an understanding of the unpredictability of climate negotiations. Having attended five conferences before, I anticipated the whirlwind days of conversations, sharing of strategies, and excitement of action. But this conference felt decidedly different. After monumental steps forward in Paris under the Obama Administration, I came to Bonn as a citizen of a country whose leadership actively disavowed cooperation in global emission reductions. I the felt the upwelling of resistance and sense of urgency to collectively demonstrate our nation’s commitment to climate action in spite of its leadership. See my blog post from the first day
COP is a strange animal. It would be impossible to soak up everything that happens and take advantage of every opportunity. For two weeks, I averaged 16,000 steps a day–– creating dialogues and fostering connections with government officials and advocates from across the world. With me, I brought an ambitious delegation of Massachusetts legislators to show american leadership and commitment from our empowered states.
Senator Mike Barrett and Representative Jen Benson joined the conference sharing their experience filing carbon pricing legislation in the state. Representative Cantwell joined the team with an interest in climate adaptation measures for the coastal communities in his district. And Representative Josh Cutler attended with an interest in exploring options for renewable energy the infrastructure changes that come with its adoption. Collectively, we represented the voice of United States citizens interested in contributing to the global conversations necessary to make a meaningful impact in climate adaptation and mitigation measures. We wanted to share our experiences in Massachusetts while learning from other government representatives at the conference.
Our delegation kept busy with events, meetings, press interviews, and networking receptions. We met with Mike Bloomberg, and shook hands with the President of France, mayors and governors from across the US, and even our own Congressman Ed Markey. We spoke with Mayor of Pittsburgh, who drew national attention with his response to the President’s remarks while withdrawing from the Paris Accord. We listened to Mike Bloomberg recount stories from his childhood in Medford and his belief that Beacon Hill acts as a test kitchen for national policies. We met with Senator Ricardo Lara and other members of the California delegation to share our work in Massachusetts and learn from the policies that have been implemented in their state.
From all of our conversations, one thing became clear–– the United States is made up of more voices than the current Administration. There are countless states, cities, and citizens across our country that are still committed to climate action and we can still collectively make a difference in international negotiation. Our nation is a sum of its parts and we are still overwhelmingly in support ambitious climate policy.
One of my favorite moments of the conference was also one of the most unexpected. During the second week of the negotiations, our delegation was approached by a producer from Turkey’s version of MSNBC. The station was interested in interviewing local state officials at COP and asked Senator Barrett to come on air. The Senator agreed, assuming a short and casual conversation about the conference and his work in Massachusetts.
As the production team prepared Senator Barrett for the interview, clipping a microphone to his collar, we noticed a gentleman in the booth next to us going through the same process. Just as the interview was about to begin, he declared, “My name is Mark Morano and I am here to tell the world that Donald Trump is right and the UN process is a fraud”. As his words rang into the bustling media center, everyone in the room fell silent.
It was at this point I realized the Senator’s interview was actually a debate with a member of Climate Depot, a well known climate skeptic news outlet. The interview started. Not only did the gentleman know Senator Barrett’s carbon pricing bill number, but he also knew his background and alma mater. The Senator did not miss a step and went head to head with the world’s largest climate skeptic on live TV. You can see the video here.
Another moment I was proud to take with me from the conference was witnessing the President Trump’s clean coal panel. The room only held about 50 people, most of whom were press and corporate CEOs. From inside, I could hear a thousand COP delegates chanting and singing songs for a better tomorrow in the halls. The purpose of this conference was not to perpetuate the narrative that clean coal has the ability to mitigate climate change or save the jobs of hard working Americans. COP is about finding real solutions to carbon-neutral energy sources and new employment opportunities. I’m proud to have been part of the push back against the false information being disseminated by President Trump. See my blog post on the panel
I’m excited to invest the motivation and momentum I feel from my time in Bonn back into our work in Boston. Our delegation gained countless strategies and connections during our time at the conference and now we can use that information to continue moving Massachusetts forward in our own emission reduction efforts. Our state is at a critical moment in deciding our energy future and moving forward will require collaboration among businesses, governments, nonprofits, and community members. By setting concrete carbon emission reduction targets in the Global Warming Solutions Act, we built a solid foundation for acting on climate change. But now we have to execute those emission reductions to truly make a difference.
Next year, the conference will be held in Poland and will be the first report on progress that has been made since the Paris Agreement. At Bonn, our delegation began a tradition of strong Massachusetts leaders traveling to COP and updating the world on our progress as a small state in New England. Next year we will begin building on our foundation from Bonn and continue collaborating on global climate mitigation. Despite our current leadership’s views, our country will still stand with Paris as a collaboration of state governments, city officials, businesses, and communities.
About the author: Michael Green leads Climate Action Business Association (CABA) as an award winning advocate for climate policy and environmental action. Since 2012, he has served as a representative to the United Nations focusing on international climate science and policy. Recognized as a Champion of Change by President Obama in 2016, Michael was honored for his focus on climate change as an equity issue. He has played strategic roles in several of the national and global campaigns dedicated to fighting climate change. Michael is a Northeastern University graduate with degrees in international affairs and environmental studies, course work at the University of Edinburgh’s MSc Program in Environmental Protection and Management and Harvard Business School’s CORe Program. He sits on the Board of Boston area non-profits as well as a policy advisor to national business associations on energy.