The United Nations is bringing the Paris climate deal to Washington next week as part of a two-day "first-of-a-kind" summit to build momentum for the agreement.
The summit will seek to take on Republican opposition to the deal and the presidential elections on the opening day, a U.N. senior official said Friday in response to questions posed by the Washington Examiner on a call with reporters.
Robert Orr, U.N. under secretary-general and special adviser on climate change, said a panel will be held Thursday in an attempt to bring the GOP on board.
At a lunch briefing, the summit will hear from Republican pollster Bill McInturff, co-founder of Public Opinion Strategies, to hear what the GOP thinks about climate change based on current polling. Former Republican Rep. Bob Inglis of South Carolina will join the panel to discuss his efforts to bring Republicans around on climate change, Orr said. Inglis has been leading a group called RepublicEN to spur debate on the issue.
Democratic Sens. Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Ben Cardin of Maryland will be on the panel, with former Democratic presidential candidate Gov. Martin O'Malley of Maryland. The summit, however, avoids having the real firebrands on the issue, such as Sens. James Inhofe, R-Okla., or John Barrasso, R-Wyo.
Overall, the summit looks to lend a "bipartisan voice" to the discussion, Orr said, especially after hearing Republican opposition to the Paris deal, causing a number of countries to question whether the U.S. will be able to meet its obligations under the agreement. Orr anticipates that some lawmakers will make statements criticizing the summit's effort on moving Paris forward, but "it is a campaign year and we do expect rhetoric per normal."
"We all know the issue of climate change excites," Orr said. "We do know this is a political issue."
But in the end, the international community believes all people, across all political factions, will come on board, Orr said. He pointed out that U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has a saying, "Once unthinkable has become inevitable."
Samuel Adams, the mayor of Portland, Ore., who is leading the local government effort at the 2016 Climate Action Summit, said governments from both conservative and liberal parts of the country see a need for clean energy development and the economic opportunities that come from taking action on climate change. He said the idea of having to choose between economic growth or the environment is a "false choice."
"You risk having the U.S. lose jobs" by opposing the climate accord, he said on the call.
The summit will bring together nearly 700 participants, representing governments, business, finance, academia, philanthropy and civil society, according to Michael Oko, communications director for the environmental group World Resources Institute, which is one of the groups hosting the event at the Mayflower hotel. Seven organizations are co-hosting the summit in the hope of driving the information and connections necessary to lead effective implementation of the Paris accord.
Orr said the summit is not meant to end with a major deal, or announcement, like at the Paris meeting. Instead, the U.N. expects individual companies and organizations to demonstrate how they will work with member states to meet the goals of the climate deal. He wants to see banks, technology companies and local and state governments upping their pledges to assist in implementing the Paris agreement before 2020, the deal's first major deadline for implementation.
The summit, May 5-6, builds on the "historic Paris Agreement" and the April 22 signing of the deal by more than 170 countries. The goal of the deal is to prevent the Earth's temperature from rising two degrees Celsius over the next two decades by cutting greenhouse gas emissions, which many scientists blame for driving manmade climate change. "The signing last week was really unprecedented," he said. This deal has progressed "further than and faster than any other agreement" before it, he said. But "it's going to require getting all hands on deck" to implement it.
Orr said a "stay-in-their-lane approach will not get the job done." He wants to see a willingness to do the work necessary to achieve the Paris goals coming out of the summit.
"The fact that the world is asking if the U.S. can deliver … will be answered next week," he said. Not only do world leaders want to know if the U.S. can deliver, but U.S. stakeholders want to know too, Orr said.
"What we will see in Washington, D.C., is significant," he said. "These coalitions continue to broaden, but they have never done so in Washington, D.C."
The summit will be historic, but not the end, Orr said on the call. Later this year, the global climate discussion will move to Marrakesh, Morocco, with the beginning of the United Nations 22nd Conference of the Parties on climate change in November. The meeting will be used to gauge implementation of the Paris deal.