The US recently said they will leave the Paris Accord, the international agreement to limit climate change. However Tearfund's Ben Niblett has been to the COP23 climate conference in Bonn and says he is still hopeful for the future of our planet.
Right now I’m alternating between hope and despair…
I’m sitting in the unofficial US pavilion at the COP23 climate talks in Bonn. National representatives from all over the world are gathered (along with scientists and campaigners like myself) to talk about how they can limit their nations’ CO2 emissions and limit global warming. There are reasons for both hope and abject despair, but hope is winning in my heart.
The name of everyone’s lips at the conference is Donald Trump and people aren’t smiling when they mention him. The Trump administration have made the decision to leave the Paris Agreement to limit carbon emissions, and also to abandon the UN climate talks. These are potentially two of the worst blows we could have feared.
But there are genuine reasons for hope, you just have to dig a little deeper to get find them...
It ain’t over...
Firstly the US haven’t left the Paris Accord yet – they can’t. According to the terms of the agreement, no one can leave until November 4, 2020.
There is another sign of hope as you walk around the venue. The United States don’t have their usual big pavilion inside the COP. However, in their place a group of businesses and civil society group have set up an unofficial ‘We Are Still In’ pavilion, just outside the official conference zone. It’s absolutely huge and packed full of big-name businesses, cities, US states, non-profits, universities and others. They are all announcing new initiatives, enthusing about innovative ways of cutting emissions, and promoting their own vital role in doing that. It embodies America’s entrepreneurial spirit, but is also great news for the environment.
Back inside the official conference zone, the US delegation seem not to have actually received any new instructions. As a consequence they are continuing with the (moderately) helpful job they were doing before.
Last year the US got more electricity from renewables than coal.
The green dollar
Another cause for optimism is a simple economic one. Burning coal to generate electricity is a huge source of carbon emissions, but so far Trump’s talk about reviving coal is just talk. Coal plants are closing because they are old and worn out.
There are few plans for new ones because solar and wind power are actually cheaper than coal; last year the US got more electricity from renewables than coal.
And there is one more reason why I am choosing hope over despair and that’s the Church. Tearfund and the Christian group Micah Challenge in the US is part of the Renew Our World campaign, inspiring and equipping young evangelicals to care for creation. They’re praying, they’re speaking out and they’re living differently. My prayer is that tens of millions more Christians, young and old, will hear their call while it is possible to make a difference.
Learn more about how you can make your voice heard: www.tearfund.org/COP23.