Meet the U.S. People’s Delegation: Scott Tess Brings Midwestern Local Gov Voice to Climate Talks

ICLEI USA and 350.org are taking a U.S. People’s Delegation to COP23, the 2017 Conference of the Parties organized under the UNFCCC. Below is a message from delegate Scott Tess from Urbana, IL. COP23 will take place in Bonn, Germany, from November 6-17, 2017 — you can support Scott’s role at the climate talks here.

As delegations from across the world make plans to travel to Bonn, Germany for the 23rd Conference of Parties (COP23) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the pain caused by excessive heat-trapping pollution in the climate system can be seen on the faces of persons suffering the effects of out-of-scale floods, droughts, heatwaves, and subsequent displacement.

While these images of preventable harm rightfully capture our attention, less well known is the growing tidal wave of countermeasures being deployed to mitigate and adapt to global warming. And often overlooked is the important role local governments and community organizations play in in deploying climate countermeasures. This is in contrast to some national governments, including the U.S., who are retreating from action on climate protection.

Local Governments Demonstrate Nimble Response to Climate

Instead, local governments and community organizations are stepping up to carry out the U.S.’s commitments in the Paris Climate Agreement, throwing a life preserver to our shorelines, our crops and our communities. What local governments and community organizations lack in economies of scale, they make up for in nimbleness and knowledge of the local terrain. But, our best chance to minimize climate change impacts is by combining large-scale, robust national climate action along with the plethora of local greenhouse gas mitigation efforts.

This hopeful message of how we can beat climate change with a large-scale U.S. government response, combined with a broad-based local government response needs an urgent hearing at COP23, the upcoming UNFCCC climate change conference, where nations are expected to agree on a set of rules on how to implement climate plans.

It’s why 350.org and ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability USA are bringing a U.S. People’s Delegation to attend COP23. This delegation composed of local government and community organization representatives, will provide a much needed perspective on how to fulfil the commitments already made, and new commitments to be made by national governments, corporations, and non-governmental organizations.

Bringing the Voice of Urbana, IL, and Midwest to Bonn

As a member of 350.org and ICLEI’s U.S. People’s Delegation, I plan to share the City of Urbana, Illinois’ story, implementing lean and nimble climate mitigation and adaptation activities and urge steadfast national government action.

As the Environmental Sustainability Manager for the City, I’m fortunate to work on a variety of projects in collaboration with many sectors of our community. I’ve worked with commercial building owners and managers on an Energy Star Challenge to benchmark, track, and reduce energy use in their facilities. I’ve also worked with neighborhoods and faith groups to create Low Carbon Diet teams who collaborated to reduce the carbon intensity of their homes and lifestyles. I developed a partnership with the Midwest Renewable Energy Association to run a group solar buying program which installed 81 solar arrays at homes and businesses throughout the county in 2016.

These projects all share the characteristics of little capital investment, short lead times to implementation, and nimble programmatic adjustment throughout.  Presently, the city is working on a $1 million guaranteed energy savings project, making plans for a large-scale solar developments at our city’s closed landfill, and building support for the what could be the State’s first Property Assessed Clean Energy district.

Urbana is also undertaking a number of activities to adapt to the climate change impacts that we can no longer halt. The city is shoring up its grey stormwater infrastructure and exploring cost effective green infrastructure opportunities. We are utilizing our city-owned landscapes to install plants that will provide food and shelter for monarch butterflies and other pollinator insects which are responsible for much food crop pollination. While we increase the habitat for pollinators in our city, we are also working to reduce the amount of potentially harmful chemicals used in our urban landscaping through a public education program called Midwest Grows Green.

Efforts like these show that local governments and community organizations have unique capacities as pragmatic and nimble implementers of climate change countermeasures.  But we still need the large-scale impact that only the U.S. government can bring to bear on climate mitigation.

The U.S. People’s Delegation will bring this vision to the next round of United Nations climate talks. We expect nations to hear our message and start getting things done on the scale and time frame we need to secure a hopeful future for our communities and the planet.

You can support the U.S. People’s Delegation to COP23 at our Generosity page.

Scott Tess is the Environmental Sustainability Manager for the City of Urbana, IL (an ICLEI member city) and a member of the ICLEI USA-350.org U.S. People’s Delegation to COP23 in Bonn, Germany. He supervises the Recycling and Environmental Compliance programs and is responsible for implementing the city’s Climate Action Plan and Sustainable Water Management Plan.

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