Ellen Anderson is a member of Climate Generation’s Window Into COP23 program, a multi-sector delegation attending the United Nation Framework on Climate Change Convention’s 23rd Conference of the Parties (COP) in Bonn, Germany. Our delegates will observe sessions and interact with climate change policy negotiations across international leaders and stakeholders.
How does climate change affect the energy policy sector?
For me, climate change issues are a key part of our work on energy policy and the energy transition, and it is also hugely significant within the University. The University of Minnesota does an enormous amount of research on climate change with pre-eminent scientists working in that space. It’s a very important focus for the University to have that knowledge and communicate that knowledge. On another level with my energy policy work, our focus at the Energy Transition Lab is trying to get our energy system to where it needs to be in the very near future—which means cutting carbon. There’s a great deal of the COP23 experience that relates to that; we can learn so much about what people around the world are doing to reduce carbon and share our experiences. One of the particular projects I’m working on, the Local Government Project for Energy Planning (LoGoPEP), partners with five cities in the Twin Cities area to provide tools that help them create measurable and accountable climate and energy strategies. We’re working directly with these cities in working toward meeting their energy and climate goals.
How can the energy policy sector contribute to climate change solutions and help us uphold our commitment to the Paris Agreement?
Part of what we want to do is help the state of Minnesota meet its greenhouse gas reduction goals, so we’re very focused on state policy as well as implementation at the city level. We also have within our umbrella here at the Energy Transition Lab a long term exchange partnership with Germany energy policy and climate smart municipalities. We have cities in Minnesota working with cities in Germany, trying to learn from each other about cutting carbon and meeting energy goals.
Why are you excited to attend COP23? What are you most looking forward to?
It’s been such a privilege to attend the COPs since 2015. It’s inspiring and eyeopening to meet people from all over the world—to hear the experiences that have led people, countries, and organizations, in their own way, to work on this big giant global goal of cutting carbon emissions. It’s been very educational for me. I think this will be a really interesting COP where we’ll measure where we’re at, given what’s changed politically in the United States, and what impact that has—or doesn’t have—on what the other countries of the world are doing. That’s one of the questions I have. I’m also wondering how much subnational organizations, especially those coming from the U.S., are influencing carbon reduction nationally and how much influence they have on this international process. For example, hundreds of U.S. cities, companies, and universities have pledged to meet the Paris Accord goals. I think it’s a fascinating question with the vacuum of leadership at the federal level in the U.S. Now that it’s been a year after the election, it will be a really interesting time to evaluate how we’re doing. This COP is also about implementation; how do we actually implement the Paris Agreement?
What change or progress do you hope comes from the conference, whether that’s personally or politically?
I hope, personally, there is a strong continued resolve to move forward and continue to increase ambition for more progress. That is fundamentally what we need to do at the global level. And I think for me, as an American, it’s also really important to understand how much we can do without a president behind us and what that looks like. I hope to understand what’s possible and learn how to help educate people in Minnesota about those opportunities. And it’s also important to let people around the world know that there’s a lot of Americans taking action and trying to fill the void.
Where is your favorite place to be outdoors in Minnesota?
The St. Croix River. It’s a treasure. It’s so close to the Twin Cities and accessible, but it’s such a beautiful and peaceful place where you can feel like you’re up in the north woods, a thousand miles from home. It just makes me happy to be there. I’m lucky enough to have a cabin on the St. Croix River, and to me, it’s paradise. It’s one of those places that a lot of people have worked hard to preserve; it’s worth fighting for.
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