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World leaders voiced strong support for climate change mitigation strategies at the COP23 conference in Bonn this week, but a 12 year old boy from Fiji stole the show.

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World Leaders Excoriate Trump & US, Promise Dramatic Action On Climate Change

World leaders voiced strong support for climate change mitigation strategies at the COP23 conference in Bonn this week, but a 12 year old boy from Fiji stole the show.

World leaders took center stage at the COP23 climate change conference in Bonn this week to promise dramatic new actions aimed at reducing global climate emissions. They also used the occasion to castigate the United States and Donald Trump for being completely out of step with the rest of the world community on this issue. “Climate change is an issue determining our destiny as mankind — it will determine the well being of all of us,” declared German chancellor Angela Merkel.

COP 23 climate change summit

(L-R) French president, Emmanuel Macron, prime minister of Fiji, Frank Bainimarama, 12-year-old Timothy Naulusala, German chancellor, Angela Merkel and Antonio Guterres, secretary general of the UN. Photograph: Ronald Wittek/EPA via The Guardian

World Leaders Speak

António Guterres, secretary general of the United Nations, told the conference about what he saw when he visited the Caribbean recently to survey the destruction caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. “The catastrophic damage of climate change is upon us and when the frontline is devastated, the whole army is lost,” he said according to a report in The Guardian. Guterres went on to condemn the amount of money invested in fossil fuels each year, which totaled $825 billion in 2016. “We must stop making bets on an unsustainable future,” he warned.

French president Emmanuel Macron got the loudest applause. He promised that France and other European nations would fully fund the UN climate science panel, which is facing a budget gap after Donald Trump turned his back on the Paris climate accords. “They will not miss a single euro,” he promised those in attendance. “The fight against climate change is by far the most significant struggle of our times,” he added.

Macron also had strong words for the developed nations of the world, those who have profited most handsomely from the economic benefits that have flowed from pumping untold quantities of carbon dioxide and other pollutants into the atmosphere. “Climate change adds further injustice to an already unfair world,” he proclaimed.

Equity Among Nations

The issue of equity among nations is a potentially divisive one, but negotiations in Bonn to hammer out the details surrounding the $100 billion per year that richer nations have promised to the developing nations to assist them in meeting carbon reduction targets have been proceeding fairly smoothly. “It is now time for the developed countries to live up to their responsibilities,” said Baron Waqa, president of Nauru who also represents many small island states. “Lack of resources is the problem.”

Africa, where 80% of the population lives without access to reliable electrical power, is particularly sensitive to the struggle to lift its people out of poverty while meeting climate change goals. President Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon, who is also representing other African nations, said the need for faster action is urgent. “The fire is right under our feet. That is why I am expressing the extreme concern of Africa in light of the increase of disasters related to climate change. Africa suffers the loss and damage on a daily basis.”

The highlight of the conference occurred when 12 year old Timoci Naulusala of Fiji took the podium. Surrounded by world leaders, the young man told the group about the destruction of his village by Cyclone Winston in 2016. “My home, my school, sources of food, money, water, were totally destroyed. My once beautiful village, which I called home, is a barren waste. Climate change is real, not a dream.”

Fiji, whose many islands are directly threatened by rising ocean levels, is a host of the conference. Frank Bainimarama, its prime minister and president of the COP 23 conference, says, “We are not simply negotiating words on a page, but we are representing all our people and the places they call home.”

Coal Rears Its Ugly Head

Coal was on the minds of many at the conference this week. President Macron promised to close all of France’s remaining coal-fired generating plants by 2021 and ban all new fossil fuel exploration in its territories, emphasis on “new.” Critics have pointed out that France has made commitments for energy exploration with a number of companies recently. The nation says it cannot break those contracts without incurring substantial financial penalties. Like Germany with its Energiewende program, France has constructed an energy transition plan which it intends to fund to the tune of more than $20 billion.

Macron told the conference that his country would work to fund grid integration and energy storage technology to promote the installation of more renewable energy in Europe. He says that raising the price of carbon emissions to €30 a ton would make both coal and natural gas uncompetitive with renewables.

Angela Merkel is facing pressure at home as she struggles to create a coalition government after the latest German election. The Green Party, which is vital to any coalition, is calling for the closure of 20 generating plants that burn lignite — brown coal that creates particularly high carbon emissions. John Schellnhuber of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research has stated that Germany stands to lose 20,000 jobs in the coal industry due to increased mechanization but those losses will be more than offset by the 600,000 new jobs he expects to be created in the wider economy in renewable energy. Schellnhuber is an adviser to Merkel and to Pope Francis.

The US Behaves Badly On The World Stage

The US embarrassed itself before the whole world last week at the conference when its representatives — including an employee of Peabody Coal — attempted to make a presentation touting the benefits of nuclear power and so-called “clean coal.” (Note: Donald Trump ignorantly believes “clean coal” means the stuff gets washed after it comes out of the ground and before it gets burned. This is the man Americans elected a year ago to lead them forward and who a third of them still vigorously support. Instead of making America great again, his unrelenting buffoonery is making the US a laughingstock.)

The presentation, entitled “The Role of Cleaner and More Efficient Fossil Fuels and Nuclear Power in Climate Mitigation,” caused hundreds of protesters to stand up and jeer. They mocked the presenters with a song as they walked out of the meeting.

Former New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, who was attending the conference along with representatives from 10 US states and 110 cities, excoriated the US delegation, saying “promoting coal at a climate summit is like promoting tobacco at a cancer summit.”

Perhaps the best statement made that day came from Makoma Lekalakala, a delegate from South Africa and coordinator for Earth Life Africa. According to a report from Oil Change International, she said, “They are climate criminals. We should stop them promoting false solutions to climate change.”  Amen to that. As long as there are people like her in the world, there is hope.

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Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."


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