I’m so awed by the USA

US freedom to pollute statue Bonn 2017

‘Freedom to pollute?’ A campaign stunt at UN climate talks in response to Trump’s stance on climate change


I’m sitting in the unofficial US pavilion at the COP23 climate talks in Bonn, thinking about the alternate dismal and hopeful prospects coming out of the USA, and hope’s winning.

Whoever you talk to here, they all feel depressed by Trump’s approach. His administration are leading in exactly the wrong direction on climate for people living in poverty; their rhetoric and plans will make things worse. They’ve announced the US will leave the UN climate talks and abandon their Paris Agreement promises.

But there’s a hopeful side too. Leaving the Paris process takes a few years, so the US haven’t left yet. They didn’t have their usual big pavilion inside the COP, but instead businesses and civil society set up this unofficial ‘We Are Still In’ pavilion just outside the official conference zone. It’s absolutely huge, packed full of big-name businesses, cities, US states, non-profits, universities and others, all announcing new initiatives, enthusing about cutting emissions, and promoting their own vital role in doing that. It’s certainly entrepreneurial.

Back inside the official conference zone, the US delegation seem not to have actually had any new instructions, so they’re continuing with the (moderately) helpful job they were doing before.

Ben Niblett Alex Gentsch in We Are Still In pavilion.jpg

I’m also given hope because in one vital respect, the reality doesn’t match the federal government’s rhetoric. Burning coal to generate electricity is a huge source of carbon emissions, but so far Trump’s talk about reviving coal is just talk – things are in fact getting better. Coal plants are closing because they’re polluting, old and worn out, and carbon emissions from the US’s electricity have fallen by a quarter since 2005, according to Energy World. There’s few plans for new coal plants because renewables are cheaper now, both solar and wind. So the US is burning less coal each year, and last year they got more electricity from renewables than coal (say Energy World, again) which is good news and good timing. The Trump Administration would love to change that, but I don’t think they will.

And there’s hope in the church. Micah Challenge in the US is a strong part of the Renew Our World campaign, inspiring and equipping young evangelicals to love God, love their neighbours, and care for creation. They’re praying, they’re speaking out, they’re living differently, and they’re impatient, so I’m encouraged and hopeful that they’ll change how the church and the nation think.



  1. Richard Avery says:

    Thanks for the encouragement Ben. Your posts are always inspirational.

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