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America pledges itself (almost) all-in on climate action

Bonn, Germany — The bright white inflatable dome stands out from the grey skies and rain at the two-week global climate conference here. The buzz of activity at the alternative home for the United States at COP23 also contrasts with the nearly invisible official U.S. delegation.

The dome is sponsored by Michael Bloomberg to collect the many movers of climate action in the U.S., who were ready-set-to go after the 2015 Paris climate agreement (COP21), only to be caught cold by the 2016 election, which happened to coincide with COP22 in Marrakech, Morocco.

If you’re looking for U.S. corporations, cities, states and citizen groups, businesses, come to the Climate Action Center, where you can declare #WeAreStillIn. Specific pledges to climate action, as required by the still-in-force climate agreement, can become part of the #WeAreStillIn coalition’s most ambitious endeavor, the America’s Pledge initiative.

California Gov. Jerry Brown l Photo credit: UNclimatechange

Inside, rooms big and small host a range of presentations and debates, with people wandering and pausing to listen to a jigsaw of voices and ideas. Here, the presentation of a handbook on how to improve the sustainability of transportation, waste management and energy supply in big cities; there, a primer on California’s policy on carbon markets and air pollution as a model for the nation.

The powerful idea is that the U.S. can fulfill its climate responsibilities even if some elected leaders do not. The pledge is intended to be a “roadmap for increased climate ambition from U.S. states, cities, businesses and others, and will transparently demonstrate to the international community how” the U.S. can deliver on its Paris pledge. Bloomberg notes that the U.S. is already halfway to the 2025 goal of reducing emissions by 26–28%.

President Trump “can tweet his fingers off, but he is not going to be able to stop us from taking these measures,” said Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, one of a steady stream of governors and senators holding forth in the dome. “We are in control of our own destiny in the states.”

Daniel Zarrilli, an aide to New York Mayor Bill deBlasio, told ImpactAlpha, “It remains to be seen what actually happens between closed doors and I think that is the worry, that the White house will be working to undermine those rules. We’ll see what happens and how all of this will play out.

“I think the presence here of the We Are Still In campaign, and all of the cities and businesses that are here are sending a message that gives more wind in the sails for the negotiators from other countries to continue to push forward and do the right thing,” he said. “We are sending a message to the world. We don’t have to come here to send a message in the United States.”

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