A month after President Trump announced his intent to exit the Paris environmental treaty, a trillion ton iceberg twice the size of Somoa broke off Antarctica. As one of the ten largest to ever calf in recorded history, the iceberg serves as a melting reminder of the dangers of climate change.
Contrasting U.S. environmental withdrawal, other countries around the world doubled down on the Paris accord. Brazil made adherence to the Paris Agreement part of their country’s law, bringing high attention to the issue of climate change by making the announcement during World Environmental Day on June 5th. The country of Chile has created a “Ministry for the Environment, Sustainable Development, and Climate Change” which issued its second biennial report on climate change in 2016. The South American country’s government has teamed up with Canada to “reduce greenhouse emissions, be better equipped to resist the effects of climate change, and make a positive contribution to a global clean economy,” according to a government press release. Canada has committed to investing $2.65 billion in the next few years with partner nations to help address environmental issues.
The World Wildlife Foundation is tracking and documenting climate change in Latin America which falls into four categories: Extreme Weather, Droughts, Sea Levels, and Ocean Acidification. This spring, Mexico hosted the 45th Session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), adding topics to WWF’s list of concerns including land degradation and management and greenhouse gases and food security. The IPCC was established in the 1980’s by the United Nations and World Meteorological Organization to track climate change.
Because of a myriad of other physical and social issues associated with poverty, climate change has taken a back seat in many poor countries including many in Africa. Across the continent, populations are rising and a majority of residents are reliant upon the land for farming – land that is increasingly less useful because of climate change.
In Denver’s sister city of Nairobi, Kenya, the Standard Media newspaper reports that Kenya’s forest cover was reduced from almost 100 million acres to just 80 million acres in the two decades from 1990-2010. Drought and over logging has taken its toll, and with it has come rising temperatures and barren land. Like many African regions, progress is left up to local organizations including the Kenya Organization for Environmental Education known for planting thousands of trees in a single weekend.
Planting more trees is also a central strategy for the northern European nation of Sweden who has committed to complete elimination of greenhouse gas emissions by 2045. Sweden has pledged more drastic environmental compliance than that required by the Paris Agreement and leads all European countries in their commitment.
According to the European Union Climate Leader Board which tallies 60 percent of European emissions, Germany and France follow Sweden with Cyprus and the United Kingdom rounding out the top five. Countries at the bottom of the list include Poland, Spain, Croatia and the Czech Republic.
German Chancellor, Angela Merkel has demonstrated a commitment to adhere to Paris standards but also political leadership, filling the vacuum created by U.S. absence on the issue. At a climate change press conference, Merkel stated that the U.S. withdrawal was, “extremely regrettable and that’s putting it very mildly.” She vowed to continue implementing German and EU environmental strategies and made it clear her country would move forward with or without the U.S. Merkel said she was, “…enthused about how many companies, especially in the U.S., want to walk along this path with us.”
In a June press conference, Catherine McKenna, Canadian Environmental Minister also made it clear that international cooperation would continue without Trump support, “I have seen in the United States that businesses support the Paris Agreement and climate action, states support it, cities support it, and everyone is moving forward in the United States and around the world.” She finished with, “It’s unfortunate that the U.S. administration says they’re pulling out of the Paris Agreement, but you can’t stop progress.”
Governors from three states - Washington, New York and California - formed the United States Climate Alliance which quickly grew to include states like Oregon, Minnesota and Virginia as well as numerous cities. In a press release, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said, “The U.S. Climate Alliance is committed to meeting the standards set forth in the Paris Accord regardless of Washington’s irresponsible actions.”
The State of Colorado joined the Alliance in mid-July with Governor Hickenlooper announcing adherence to the Paris accord and the potential for creating green jobs in the state. Besides the expected announcement to gradually cut greenhouse gas emissions, Hickenlooper also announced his intent to create “charging corridors” which would provide charging stations along highways for electric vehicles making their way across the state. Fifteen Colorado mayors have also signed an agreement to adhere to Paris goals including Denver Mayor, Michael Hancock, Boulder Mayor, Suzanne Jones, and Lakewood Mayor, Adam Paul.
New efforts in Colorado are springing up to support increased Latino involvement in the environmental movement. The Americas Latino Eco Festival will host its 5th annual event at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science from September 15-17. The event has cooperation and sponsorship from Green Latinos and the Latina Environmental Giving Circle. According to event publicity, “ALEF is a Latino-hosted multicultural gathering, elevating the voices of communities of color, and of women in conservation and cultural leadership, fostering collaboration to better tackle environmental problems from many angles.” More information is available at: www.americaslatinofestival.org.
The Denver Foundation has recently established an Environmental Affinity Group with grant money “aimed and increasing inclusiveness and diversity in the environmental movement in Colorado.” The foundation recently awarded a grant to Conservation Colorado and Groundwork Denver to facilitate training and “build a pipeline of environmental leaders in the Latino community through the Protégete program, which empowers Latinos to build awareness and political agency around climate change.” More information on the Protégete program can be found at
www.conservationco.org and information about the Denver Foundation’s Environmental Affinity Group is available by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org.