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Dickinson to Durban » Climate Change, Environmental Politics » “This is a challenge that will require a coalition of billions” –Ambassador Gibbs

“This is a challenge that will require a coalition of billions” –Ambassador Gibbs

By: Anna McGinn ‘14

The US Center hosted side events throughout the conference to share with both US citizens and people from around the world actions that the US has been taking to combat climate change.  Despite the fact that the US hinders the formal negotiations for the most part, progress has been made at regional levels and with outreach to other countries.   Most recently, I attended an event, “Think Globally, Act Locally” which highlighted actions that states and cities have been making to mitigate and become more climate resilient.  As the negotiations wrap up, and things are not looking bright for a substantial agreement especially from the US, that fact that action is happening at a subnational level shows that not all is lost with regards to US ambition.

It is well known that California is leading the way on climate change efforts in the United States.  They have created climate change legislation and are in the process of up scaling their implementation.  But California is not alone, 22 states and 44 cities across the US have created climate action plans.  Kentucky, the most coal intensive and carbon intensive state in the US, was among the states to create an action plan.  The plan, which states that they will reduce CO2 emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, was created and published during a gubernatorial election.  The governor up for re-election supported the climate action plan and was re-elected.  The speaker extrapolated this to mean that the people were in support of the climate action plan or at least they did not oppose it enough to elect a candidate who did not support the plan.  Maryland is also taking action.  They produced their climate action plan in 2008 and plan to pass state-wide laws on emissions this year.  They plan to address emissions from transportation and integrate the protection of the Chesapeake Bay into their policies.   Additionally, a total of six southern states have created action plans which show that state action transcends traditional liberal-conservative lines which generally prescribe positions on climate change.

On a national level, the US is clearly lacking in its ability to contribute to global efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change.  This can be attributed to a constant stalemate in the Congress.   However, on a state and local level, action is taking place and law are being passed.  It is not enough, but it is a start.  At this point, it is imperative that states continue to pass legislation, improve regulations, and move forward without the federal government.  The conclusion of this talk emphasized people must show their support of climate action because representatives will do anything they can to be re-elected.   When people make climate change a priority that needs to be addressed, the state and possibly national leaders will see this, and react by taking action.

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