It was another busy day here in Bonn at COP23. This morning, several students attended the kickoff of the U.S. Climate Action Center, the unofficial pavilion displaying American commitment to tackling climate change. The tent was organized by groups and initiatives including We Are Still In, Climate Mayors, and the U.S. Climate Alliance, along with many others. Hundreds of speakers and participants representing states, cities, the private sector, universities, and faith communities will spend the next week highlighting the many ways in which subnational U.S. actors are pushing the envelope on climate action.

The kickoff included a diverse panel of speakers, including James Brainard (Mayor of Carmel, Indiana), David Phillips (VP for Energy and Sustainability, University of California), Bishop Marc Andrus (The Episcopal Church), Jeff Moe (Global Director for Product Advocacy, Ingersoll Rand), and others. It was an exciting and informative conversation that explored the many ways in which U.S. communities are working together to uphold the Paris Agreement goals.

Check out student updates from today’s events below, and follow us over the next eight days for continued coverage of COP23 and the U.S. Climate Action Center.

“It’s the right thing to do from a business perspective. It’s the right thing to do from a social perspective. It’s the right thing to do from an environmental perspective. And that’s why we’re still in.” — Jeff Moe, Global Director for Product Advocacy, Ingersoll Rand

“Great countries care about their commitment when they sign an agreement. If we want to be a great country, we need to focus on this issue and put all our efforts towards it.”  — James Brainard, Mayor of Carmel, Indiana

“We should take a moment to relish in being rebels. Forget what’s happening in DC and look at what’s happening here today … We are not only in today, but we have always been in.” — Ricardo Lara, State Senator, California

“America first does not mean America alone.” — Lionel Johnson, Mayor of St. Gabriel, Louisiana

Speakers at the U.S. Climate Action Center kickoff event.

Rachel:  Today was spent at the U.S. Climate Action Pavilion for their kickoff events. The events highlighted how the structure and purpose of the Paris Agreement and the United States government are related. They both rely on distributed leadership and the power of these groups to drive the success of the overall mission.

This event also highlighted how climate change should not be a partisan issue. Everyone should want to drink clean water, breathe clean air, leave the planet better off for their children, and confront the issue in a way that can create jobs and allow for economic competitiveness. I appreciated this point and was inspired to hear about the leadership being taken up all across the country in both blue and red states.

Inside the U.S. Climate Action Zone

Galen: Being in the Business & Environment concentration at the Nicholas School, I was particularly enthused when the Senior Manager from Coca Cola’s Office of Sustainability asked to grab coffee. During the conversation, I referenced a matrix from Influence Map that has been shown in a few of my classes this semester, indicating how strongly companies support or oppose climate policies (see below). He had coincidentally gotten an email just this morning with this exact chart and pulled it up on his phone. Coke fell in the bottom right quadrant – indicating that it strongly supports climate policy; however, its political activity on the issue does not reflect this level of concern. We discussed the company’s barriers to being more politically engaged surrounding climate politics. He said that it’s not in their companies culture to be vocal about politics, especially in comparison to European companies like Unilever & IKEA who do not have to worry about it as much. However, being able to communicate their support effectively is something Coca Cola definitely wants to improve. It was particularly rewarding being able to speak confidently to private sector interests; something I wouldn’t have been able to do prior to Duke.

Source: Influencemap

Danielle: Today things got a little heated in the Article 6 discussions. A misunderstanding about the process for generating the next iteration of a draft working document nearly led to a complete breakdown in the conversation. Some Parties felt that the working group’s co-chairs changed the process today from what had been previously agreed upon, which sparked a fairly heated debate about the best way for the group to move forward in their work program and nearly led to some Parties refusing to move forward at all. This episode highlighted for me the difficulty of decision-making in a consensus-based process with nearly 200 participating countries. Getting that many countries with different views to agree on anything, even something as seemingly simple as a procedural matter, is a feat of cooperation and trust that is sometimes underplayed in the media’s discussion of the UNFCCC process. It just goes to show how truly remarkable it really was that Parties were able to make the Paris Agreement happen at all.

Adam, Danielle, and Rachel at the U.S. Climate Action Center

Sanjeev: I was a little more experimental with the side events I attended today. I’d largely covered events on loss and damage focusing on climate change-induced displacement, both out of interest but also because my client, Climate Analytics, wanted me to cover them. But I had a little more free time today so ended up only going to one event on displacement. I went to one more broadly on loss and damage, one on adaptation and then ended up walking in to the last part of an event in the US Climate Action Center, which had Native American leaders speaking. It was good to attend some other events but that also made me realize how much displacement is definitely my main area of interest.

Tasfia: Loss and damage is among the main focuses of the climate talks this year. One of the options that has been discussed heavily this week in terms of potential solutions is climate risk insurance. According to some experts, climate insurance can be adapted to the needs of specific countries to potentially play one part of an integrated response to loss and damage. However, climate insurance is not without controversy. There are concerns over whether the implementation of climate insurance programs give private insurers market power over vulnerable farmers. I have amassed quite a catalogue of resources on loss and damage over this week, and intend to learn more about potential financial mechanisms to address loss and damage.

Sam: The fourth day of the COP coincided with the opening day of the American “We Are Still In” pavilion. The area was less than crowded, and general knowledge of the space had not yet spread, but it was still refreshing to have an American environmental perspective at the COP. The after lunch panel discussed continued American climate involvement from both a business and public office perspective, generating renewed optimism in the previously absently American sphere.