8 Things I Learned at the Climate Reality Leadership Corps Training

July 5, 2017

By Jude O'Reilley - Skoll Foundation

Last week I joined Al Gore’s team in Seattle for their 35th Climate Reality Leadership Corps training. The community is an international one, including strong representation from India, Europe, and sub-Saharan Africa. In total, 800 climate leaders were trained last week, swelling the ranks of those well-equipped to shape the growing global conversation around climate.

Clean energy and climate are key areas of priority for us with the Skoll Award and beyond, and Skoll has specifically supported the Climate Reality Project for some time. We are always looking for future participants in the Skoll World Forum and candidates for the Skoll Award, and this gathering seemed an opportunity on both counts. Like many of you I suspect, I’m also always searching for ways to do something tangible to address what is no doubt the most pressing problem of our time.

Here are some of my takeaways from an invigorating week:

  1. The climate community—largely local organizers from around the world—in the room was largely unfazed by the withdrawal from Paris. The feared retreat of other nations from the Paris Agreement has not come to pass. Interestingly, US withdrawal from Paris will not formally come into effect until Nov 4, 2020. The next Presidential election is November 3rd, 2020.
  2. U.S. state and county governments—represented at this gathering by Washington Governor Jay Inslee—are filling some of the vacuum left by the current lack of leadership for the U.S. Federal government. Twelve states and Puerto Rico have signed up for the U.S. Climate Alliance.
  3. Women’s leadership was on full display at the convening. For the first time, 60 percent of the climate leadership candidates were women, including local leaders and scientists, like UW’s Dr. Amy Snover, Climate Impacts Group. The pioneering climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe was probably the most cited climate expert at the event…and she wasn’t there!
  4. The majority of Americans now believe in climate change, though we differ on how much we think it’ll affect us personally. Among skeptics, the conversation seems to be shifting from “there’s no climate change” to “there’s change but it’s not caused by humans, or only partially caused by us.”
  5. Renewable alternatives are becoming price-competitive when compared against traditional dirty sources of power. UAE and Chile both signed deals recently for under 3 cents per kilowatt hour.
  6. More than thirty U.S. communities like Palo Alto; San Jose; Columbia, SC; and Edmonds, WA have committed to become 100 percent renewable.
  7. Despite what is and will be a strong attempt to roll back environmental regulation, changing U.S. environmental protection is not done just at the stroke of a pen. The Bush administration’s attempts to dismantle regulation faced a string of lawsuits and rebukes from the Supreme Court, and legal scholars expect the same today.
  8. The transition to clean transportation is well underway. 2M electric vehicles are on the road globally, and that number is growing rapidly. All taxis in Beijing will be electric. And Tesla is adding a $35K model.

It’s tempting to take stock of the magnitude of the challenge we face with a changing climate and become disheartened. As Al Gore noted, we’ve faced massive challenges in this world before. They seemed knotty and intractable—U.S. LGBT rights, slavery, apartheid, women’s right to vote—until we dug in, fought, and won.

image (cc) Ian D Keatling

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