The international climate summit is wrapping up. What’s been done and how are the Adirondacks involved?
By Chloe Bennett
Update: A new COP28 agreement with different wording was finalized after this story was published. Read about the document here.
Some interests of the Adirondacks were present at COP28, an international climate summit with world leaders, lobbyists and nonprofits, this year held in the United Arab Emirates.
Aaron Mair, director of the Forever Adirondacks campaign of the Elizabethtown-based Adirondack Council, attended this year’s summit to represent the council and Adirondack Wild.
After several days of talks, presentations and meetings, a deal between delegations at the conference was drafted, calling for a reduction in fossil fuel production and consumption. Now, the summit is in overtime as diplomats work to seal an agreement.
Environmental groups have expressed disappointment in the latest document’s wording which does not directly call for a phase-out of fossil fuels.
“It’s just profoundly disappointing,” Mair said of the draft.
However, the decision was not shocking to Mair. “This was that dark fear folks had going into this COP,” he said. “And now the draft texts are just bearing that out.”
While officials were discussing the future of fossil fuels, Mair was presenting the Adirondacks as a model for natural climate solutions like forest carbon sequestration.
Research from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change shows that nature-based solutions, including forest management, have a large role to play in reducing the worst of climate change. Resilient nature such as Adirondack forests boosts carbon storage and can act as buffers in extreme weather, which is projected to increase along with temperatures.
In 2015, an agreement in France was signed by nations at the annual climate summit to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius by substantially reducing global greenhouse gas emissions
Mingling with scientists and government officials, Mair said he pitched the Adirondacks as a model for “being a nature-based solution with regards to our desperate need for action, knowing full well that we are clearly not going to make the 1.5-degree Paris (goal), but we can offer hope by investing in nature-based solutions.”
Localizing international climate talks
Ideas derived from conversations at COP28 flew back with Mair after the first full week of the summit. With sizable climate funding on the table from the Inflation Reduction Act and New York’s Environmental Bond Act, the Adirondack lobbyist said he wants to see more investment in sustainable transit and affordable housing.
“What is a hyper-local effort to now look at in front of say, can we see a national model and opportunity (as) something to test here?” Mair asked. “Because this is not unique just to the Adirondacks. This is rural America.”
He said he hopes for more coordination between transportation authorities to create a more frequent transit system in and out of the Blue Line, with lower-emission vehicles.
“It bolsters the ecotourism of the Adirondacks, it’s a lot cleaner because they’re not bringing in the cars and congestion,” he said. “But by the same token, it gives a very significant boost to the working-class communities and families.”