After two full weeks of exploring the COP23 in Bonn, I can say that I learned a lot from leaders in various categories of climate action. It was a great opportunity to observe a convention on such a scale. As I make my way back to the United States, I want to share some of the biggest things that resonated with me:
1. There is still a lot of work to be done. There is a clear difference in opinion on a lot of matters. I saw this through arguments after talks, protests during speeches, and a conversation I had with a man from Iran. One day on my way to Bonn, I had to abruptly get off one train and wait for a connecting train. Shortly after, a man approached me and asked if we were still going the right way to the COP23. This sparked a conversation on energy and finding a balance between fossil fuels and renewables. He explained that he was from Iran, worked in the energy sector and was heading to the convention to negotiate for fossil fuels – makes sense given the Middle East’s dependence on oil and natural gases. The most interesting part of my conversation with this stranger is that he kept mentioning the importance of “finding a balance” between fossil fuels and renewables. I asked him how he thought we could achieve that and he immediately responded with, “Well what do you think?” The fact that he didn’t have a clear answer indicated that there is a lot of work to be done in order to achieve ambitious climate goals.
2. The US is ‘Still In’ in a big way. The US made a huge splash in the conference with the US Climate Action Center and hosted over 30 events including business leaders, governors, and senators. In light of current climate politics, it was an impressive display of non-federal commitment. Leaders such as Michael Bloomberg and Jerry Brown made a promise to continue funding initiatives to achieve Paris Agreement goals.
3. US businesses play a leadership role in sustainability. Large corporations such as Microsoft, Mars Inc. and Walmart are still committed to their own targets. Last Friday a panel of sustainability officers from the aforementioned companies described their sustainability efforts. Without going into too much detail, Walmart is committed to a 100% renewable energy future and currently sits at 26% renewables with a 2025 goal of 50% renewables. Similarly, Mars Inc. aims to decarbonize factories and be net zero by 2040 in a large part through changing the way transactions occur in the supply chain. Corporations must continue to other businesses and organizations.
Thanks to Mark Smith and Colorado College for an unforgettable journey filled with learning and networking.
Sam Sheridan ’18
Pictured above: Senator Ben Cardin and Sheldon Whitehouse sharing that the US is still committed.