By Josh Kurtz
While the U.S. under President Trump has become isolated in the international effort to combat climate change, the state of Maryland is all in.
The Maryland Department of Environment (MDE) announced Thursday that Secretary Ben Grumbles is headed to the annual United Nations Climate Change Conference now underway in Bonn, Germany.
The news comes as the Trump administration attempts to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate accord, in which 200 nations agreed to significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
Under President Obama, the U.S. sent big delegations of administration officials to the annual U.N. conference, and Americans took a lead role in shaping the agenda and negotiating the various agreements.
In this first year of the Trump administration, the U.S. delegation in Bonn mainly consists of career officials from the State Department and other agencies. Ironically, they will be there to negotiate implementation of the Paris agreement – even as Trump tries to pull away from it.
The National Security Council’s international energy adviser will be there to host a fossil fuels and nuclear event.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt – a harsh critic of the Paris agreement when he was Oklahoma attorney general – will not attend, but some of his top political aides will.
“The U.S. used to be so much at the center of the conversation, and now it’s going to be like, ‘So wait, they’re even still here?’” Jake Schmidt, international climate director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, told Climatewire last week.
Into this environment, Grumbles will join about 10 officials from other states at the conference, which is taking place at the old West German Parliament building in Bonn.
Grumbles, who is chairman of the independent, bipartisan Maryland Commission on Climate Change, is to participate in more than a dozen presentations and meetings with government leaders, businesses and environmental, scientific and academic organizations starting Saturday and ending next week. He is expected to discuss the actions Maryland is taking to make the state a national leader to curb greenhouse gas emissions and increase resiliency and preparedness throughout the state and region.
“Maryland is a leader in fighting climate change, and this is a great opportunity to share our approaches and learn from others,” Grumbles said in a statement. “The conference is also a chance to tell the world that Maryland is open for business on environmental, energy, and climate change solutions.”
This is the first time in the three years of Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) administration that Grumbles – or any other state official – has attended the U.N. climate conference, according to Jay Apperson, an MDE spokesman.
A handful of Democratic governors and senators from across the country are also expected to be in Bonn, to argue that many U.S. leaders still make fighting climate change a priority.