Climate denial has found itself a place in the highest office in the land. As Donald Trump assumes office on January 20, the federal executive, the largest branch of the federal government, will stop pursuing policy to combat the threat that is climate change. But no, this blog post is not about Donald Trump. The founders sought to protect the states from the tyranny of a powerful federal government by giving individual states the right to set their own policies in a tremendous breadth of areas. Now, obviously, they didn’t foresee the polar icecaps melting, but I bet they never foresaw the cars that cause it, either. So, this blog is about the local governments, businesses, and civil societies that will continue to lead the charge in the climate policy arena for at least the next four years.
In a briefing with college students, US Special Envoy to the COP Johnathan Pershing soothed us young, seething delegates by pointing out that states like California are leading the charge already. It has passed the most comprehensive climate policy in the country, and since it alone could be the eighth largest country (economically) by itself, those policies matter. They’ve set strong limits on carbon emissions, started a cap and trade program, limited other greenhouse emissions, and more. New York state, for it’s part, has started a Green Bank, to initiate investments in green infrastructure that will prepare the state for the Green future, and the future in which sea levels are going to threaten the city. Even states that are thought of as conservative, like Texas, have started paving the way. It has invested heavily in solar and wind so as to be self-sufficient; the lone-star state applies to more than just political ideology.
The business community has also decided that alternative energy and combating climate change are important parts of their future. Food companies like Mars, Kellogg, and Dannon have been at the conference this week; talking about the steps they’re taking to ensure that their entire supply chain, from the smallest farmer in Sierra Leone to the storefront that sells a Milky Way, Special K cereal, or Activia yogurt are all prepared for the future. They’re so dedicated, in fact, that they sent their Chief Sustainability Officers (CSO’s) to the COP to advertise the business community’s steps to combat climate change. Other companies like Google, Facebook, and even traditionally “rustbelt” companies like Ford, Walmart, and General Motors are taking serious steps to adapt to, and combat climate change.
Civil society, the organizations (like this one) that are dedicated to fighting climate change, also have a role to play. Namely, at the bottom pushing up. In order to force companies to change their practices and include green energy in their investment portfolio and to “green” their facilities, it took their customers demanding it. In order to force local governments like cities and states to “green” their policy platforms, it took protests, memos, and people pressuring their elected officials (or electing new ones) to pass policy they wanted. To quote Mr. Pershing, “Administrations come and go, make sure your voice is constant. You guys are at the tip of the spear, make it happen.”
So let’s make it happen. Bottom-up.
This blog post is a contribution of Connor Rubin, one of our Week 2 delegates.