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Europeans Shake up Washington DC Ahead of Global Climate Action Summit

EU climate change commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini, vice-president of the European Commission Maroš Šefčovič and EU ambassador to the U.S. David O'Sullivan. Photo: @EUintheUS
EU climate change commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini, vice-president of the European Commission Maroš Šefčovič and EU ambassador to the U.S. David O'Sullivan. Photo: @EUintheUS

On the eve of a major global summit in Washington DC – and amid a lot of political turmoil – Europeans put a spotlight on the transatlantic opportunities for economic growth, innovation, and climate action.

While the U.S. capital was coming to terms with what is now an all but certain presidential face off between Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton, the European Union brought together the public, private, and non-profit sectors from both sides of the Atlantic at a venue somewhere between the U.S. Congress and the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue.

As Republican presidential contestant Ted Cruz dropped out of the race, the Going Green event kicked-off on Tuesday (3 May) with an evening event to celebrate Europe Day – which takes place across Europe on 9 May.

The organisers say the event with the slogan “Delivering for Paris” highlights the critical role played by Europe and the U.S. in both securing the Paris Agreement on climate change, but also the need for a strong transatlantic partnership to ensure its successful implementation.

EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini, U.S. energy secretary Ernest Moniz, vice-president of the European Commission Maroš Šefčovič and EU climate change commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete were among the senior government representatives to attend.

But it was the presence of organisations like Google and officials from cities such as Copenhagen that highlighted how the business community and all levels of government are looking to collaborate to make the Paris Agreement work.

US energy secretary Moniz and the European Commission’s Šefčovič discussed how collaboration in the clean-tech sector can help deliver the Paris Agreement.

The EU’s climate innovation initiative, Climate-KIC, already works with American partners in cities such as Boston and Washington DC. Both cities took part in last year’s Climathon, a global climate innovation hackathon. More U.S. cities are expected to take part in the 2016 edition.

Moniz also recognised that existing policies will need to be updated to achieve the goal of staying well below of a 2 degrees Celsius increase in global warming. A “comprehensive legislative solution,” will be needed to meet the 2050 climate goals, according to a Bloomberg reporter at the event.

This is an issue the Europeans are very familiar with. They are currently trying to broker an agreement between 28 countries on ratifying the Paris Agreement, and whether to stick to previous EU goals or to shift gears.

The meeting came ahead of the first-ever global meeting of leaders from government, business and civil society in Washington DC on 5 and 7 May. Following the Paris climate accord signing ceremony in New York, the Climate Action 2016 Summit aims to showcase and discuss actions all sectors are already taking to make the agreement a success.

The EU delegation to the United States, which has organised the event, has published some key points to come out of the discussions on Facebook.

American Spirit

In her Europe Day remarks, Mogherini did not shy away from addressing some of Europe’s own political challenges.

She quoted U.S. president Barack Obama, who on a recent trip to Europe said: “I’ve come here today to the heart of Europe, to say that the United States and the entire world needs a strong and prosperous and united Europe, perhaps you need an outsider (…) to remind you of the magnitude of what you have achieved.”

Dutch climate change minister Sharon Dijksma seems to have taken the American positivity to heart. She was later quoted as saying “Tackling climate change will not be easy, but oh, boy, am I optimistic!” at the Going Green conference.

Interested in organising the 2016 edition of Climate-KIC’s Climathon in your city? Get in touch at climathon@climate-kic.org.

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