The U.S. delegation was a “sideshow” at last week’s climate talks. Meet the shadow delegation getting things done.
Last week, nations gathered for the latest round of the United Nations’ annual climate talks in Bonn, Germany, and the U.S. delegation — once feared, once revered — became a “sideshow.” The State Department’s team was small and faces from the executive branch are mostly staying out of sight. (By contrast, when he was Secretary of State, John Kerry would routinely walk the corridors and stop and chat with activists and campaigners.) Two years after the Paris Agreement was adopted, and one year after Donald “global warming was created by and for the Chinese” Trump’s surprising electoral victory, the U.S. held just one event — a panel that awkwardly promoted fossil fuels as America’s plan to address climate change, a problem that the administration won’t admit is real.
The event — received with equal parts mockery, outrage, and a protest — became something of a symbol for America’s two-faced position on climate change. On one hand, here was a panel discussion (called, no joke, “The Role of Cleaner and More Efficient Fossil Fuels and Nuclear Power in Climate Mitigation”) that featured reps from Peabody Coal, the world’s largest privately owned coal company (which happened to go bankrupt last year), and Tellurian, a natural gas company currently investing heavily in export infrastructure. Yet, on the other hand, before the event, two sitting governors from the West Coast, Kate Brown of Oregon and Jay Inslee of Washington, entered the room, turned to the press, and gave a statement denouncing the official U.S. position. “This is a sideshow, a blip,” said Inslee.