Dr. Montalto is at the 22nd Conference of the Parties (COP22)

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From the desk of Dr. Franco Montalto:

Dr. Montalto is at the 22nd Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC
Type: Meeting or Conference Organizer: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
Date: 07-18 Nov 2016 Location: Morocco (Marrakesh)


First positive message about US situation I've heard so far!

I'm sitting in a special side event sponsored by the US government to talk about the state of climate mitigation and adaptation in our country. The panelists are Brian Christopher Deese, senior advisor to President Barack Obama, Deborah Markowitz, Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, and the Diane Holdorf, chief sustainability officer and vice president of environmental stewardship, health and safety for the Kellogg company.

Essentially the message was this: economic development and green house gas emissions are now officially decoupled, with business, states, and cities acting on their own. Deese started the session off by citing statistics: since 2008 economic growth is up 10%, carbon emissions are down 9%, and petroleum production is down by 2%. He claimed that it's the market and state and local leaders that are driving this "structural shift."

Beech was followed by Markowitz, who explained how this happened. In the years when Bush wouldn't participate in the Kyoto agreement, and when a republican congress wouldn't allow the US to lead at Copenhagen, states and local leaders filled the gap. Action was local despite inaction at the federal level, and that same trend will continue now. Currently 1 in 20 jobs in Vermont are in the solar industry. Markowitz reminded us that because the US has a federalist system, the states have quite a bit of autonomy and this works in our favor in the context of climate action. States and local governments have acted and will continue to do so.

Markowitz was followed by Holdorf, who said that her global company needs to compete in the global economy. Even if the US takes a hiatus in leadership at the federal level, Kellogg has its own internal benchmarks to meet, and global markets in other countries to consider. Her company has pledged to reduce its emissions by 65% by 2050, for example. To do that they need to consider their entire supply chain. And as a food producer, Kellogg is concerned with agriculture, with major impacts on water, energy and materials cycles. So from the business side, there's much more to consider than what one administration in one country is saying.

All three speakers ad the same fundamental message: the changes we need to meet our NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions) are already underway and it's not because of the Clean Power Plan (which wouldn't go into effect until the 2020s anyway. The Western Climate Initiative and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative are already acting completely independent of the federal government.

In response to one attendee who said "well Vermont is here, but Texas isn't. Are we going to have a two speed system' in the US?" Keech jumped up and pointed out that Texas is leading the country in wind power right now! Climate action is happening and will continue to regardless of current change in administration!