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Author: Jin Lee

COP-timist Jin

COP-timist Jin

Let’s just say that election night was a rough night. In four days, I was headed to Morocco for COP22, and the United States had just elected a person, who may or may not believe in climate change, as President. News articles following the election did not help. There were reports on President-elect Trump’s transition team of various climate change deniers, on ways in which President-elect Trump could pull out of the Paris Agreement, and on how President-elect Trump could reverse all the environmental progress done by the Obama administration. From my perspective, there were only reports of gloom-and-doom for achieving the 2ºC goal of the Paris Agreement, and so, I flew to Morocco with overcast hopes.

However, Morocco dispelled the dreariness of the media’s forecast on climate change. Beginning with the first panelist discussion I attended for the week, everyone had the same message: no one nation has the power to stop the momentum towards a cleaner, healthier environment. Large multinational companies assured the audience they were going to continue investing in renewable energy solutions and in building a low-carbon economy. To them, it would be bad for their business not to invest. Markets are already shifting toward a low-carbon economy. With climate change impacted communities in unprecedented ways, financiers now require businesses to be resilient to those changes. Other countries began implementing methods to meet their national determined contributions and are now looking for innovative solutions to meet their goals. To pull out of the Paris Agreement would be a diplomatic nightmare for the United States as other nations view climate change a core element to international cooperation. Moreover, cities and states in the United States are establishing their own climate agenda to address the impacts of climate change already affecting them.

A skeptic would find it hard to swallow all this optimism. Only those dedicated to mitigating and adapting to climate change attend COP. Neither Exxon Mobil nor Shell showed up. No representatives from North Dakota (think, Dakota Access Pipeline) or Alberta (Keystone XL) showed up either. Plus, it could all be said for PR purposes. The panelists definitely had prepared answers to tough questions. And in the tough questions they had not prepared for, they fumbled, saying vague words of assurances on how they were not worried about meeting the Paris goals.

But, in the end, nothing good comes out of being a skeptic. Hypothesizing about the worst case scenarios for climate change under the new administration does not get us closer to meeting the Paris goals. Expending energy reading about how the new administration could suffocate the EPA, reinvigorate the coal industry, or roll back on renewable subsidies may be captivating, but it provides no real solution.

At COP, people recognized these new problems that could arise with the new administration. But instead of stopping there, they immediately began addressing them. Countries with large and small economies recommitted to the Paris Agreement, and set lofty goals for themselves. Maybe, just maybe, the world needed the threat of President-elect Trump’s reversal on the United States’ climate change policy to accelerate this growing momentum toward a low-carbon economy, such that the 2ºC goal of the Paris Agreement could be met. So, I guess, you can call me a COP-timist.