Thankful For The Millions Moving Beyond Coal Globally

11/21/2017 04:15 pm ET Updated Nov 27, 2017
Mary Anne Hitt, Verena Owen, and Bruce Nilles of the Sierra Club Beyond Coal campaign at a rally in Germany during COP23.
Sierra Club
Mary Anne Hitt, Verena Owen, and Bruce Nilles of the Sierra Club Beyond Coal campaign at a rally in Germany during COP23.

I’ve come back home from the United Nations climate talks (COP23) in Bonn, Germany, with so much to be thankful for - namely, for the inspiration from the many Beyond Coal activists I met from all over the world. Our movement has gone global, and seeing it with my own eyes was life-changing. We have roughly the same amount of coal power on the grid in the US and Europe, and by moving beyond coal to clean energy on both sides of the Atlantic, we actually have a fighting chance to turn the corner on climate change before it’s too late. That’s exactly what we intend to do.

From Germany to the US, from Chile to China, people of all ages and from all backgrounds are taking action in their own countries and communities to try to slow climate disruption by moving beyond coal. Here are some of the big moments from my time in Germany and at COP23, the first in a series of posts I’ll be writing about this trans-Atlantic Beyond Coal movement.

  • I joined Beyond Coal senior director Bruce Nilles and lead volunteer Verena Owen (both of whom started the Beyond Coal campaign years ago) to celebrate the launch of Europe Beyond Coal, a coalition of organizations in 28 countries working to phase out coal in Europe. It’s a sister effort to our US Beyond Coal Campaign, and we’ve been comparing notes and strategizing across the Atlantic for a couple of years now. After several days of meeting with local leaders from around the world, I was both inspired by their work, and struck by how similar their campaigns are to our work in the US.
  • The call for entire countries to phase out coal was front and center throughout COP23. On November 4, we marched with 25,000 people in the streets all calling for a coal phase-out. This was the largest climate march in Germany’s history, and Bruce joined other international leaders on the main stage, where he gave a rousing speech (watch a clip in this video) about how we’ll move forward in spite of Trump.
  • The UK and Canada announced a major new diplomatic effort to phase out coal, with 25 partners - including 20 nations! - committing to end their use of coal entirely. The Powering Past Coal Alliance marks a watershed moment in the global effort to move beyond coal, by creating the first-ever diplomatic initiative that’s laser focused on phasing out coal as a first, essential key step to tackling the climate crisis. The launch made headlines around the world. As Canadian Environment Minister Catherine McKenna put it, "I think we can safely say that the response has been overwhelming."
  • Mike Bloomberg traveled to Bonn where he announced a $50 million grant to international work to move beyond coal, important new support for efforts around the world. When he made the announcement at COP23, he encouraged Germans listening to call German chancellor Angela Merkel to demand a coal phase-out in Germany, one of Europe’s biggest coal countries.
  • Bruce Nilles and I presented on the big stage in the US Climate Action pavilion - a space created and funded by Bloomberg and other donors because the US, I’m sad to report, did not have an official presence with the other countries, given Trump’s intention to exit the Paris agreement. We told the Beyond Coal story and explained how a grassroots movement was leading the way for a just transition to clean energy in the US, driving down carbon emissions faster than any other country, and retiring coal plants under Trump just as fast as we did under Obama. Our allies asked us to keep telling our story around the world, so that other countries won’t use Trump as an excuse to slow their progress. For me, sharing our story on such a big stage was a tremendous honor and an unforgettable moment in my life.
  • I took to social media for a fun Facebook Live video interview with Verena Owen, direct from COP23, about all we were doing in Bonn and back home in the US with the Beyond Coal campaign.

As we go into a long holiday weekend, this leadership from around the world gives me so much to be thankful for. I am grateful for those who continue to work tirelessly to make our world a better place. Millions of us want clean air, clean water, clean energy, and climate action, and we’re moving forward, no matter what Trump says or does.

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