by Duane Nichols on December 2, 2023

Delegate Evan Hansen has an exceptional background for participating in COP28.

Delegate Evan Hansen to participate in UN COP28 climate conference in Dubai

From an Article by David Beard, The Dominion Post, Morgantown, December 2, 2023

MORGANTOWN – Delegate Evan Hansen, D-Monongalia, heads to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates on Monday to participate in the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP28. He’ll be participating in two panel discussions, on Wednesday and Friday. He told The Dominion Post he’s been involved in energy transition issues in the Legislature, making sure people in impacted coal communities have new investments and opportunities, which is how he came to be invited.

Also, he said, he’s been participating for a couple of years in a series of meetings organized by the Jackson Hole Center for Global Affairs – based in Jackson Hole, Wyo. – that connects West Virginia and Wyoming (another coal state) state leaders with leaders in China to discuss mutual energy transition issues.

He was among a small group of people from both states invited to participate at COP28, and the only West Virginia representative, he said. The Wednesday panel is called “The Elephant in the Room: Just and Inclusive Transitions in Fossil Fuel Regions.”

Friday’s panel concerns the China-U.S. Track II Dialogue on Climate Finance and follows on the heels of the mid-November announcement that the United States and China reached new agreements to work together on greenhouse gas emission reductions and the rollout of renewable sources of energy. They countries agreed, the White House reported, “to sufficiently accelerate renewable energy deployment in their respective economies through 2030 from 2020 levels so as to accelerate the substitution for coal, oil and gas generation.”

Reuters reported that much of the focus on China at COP28 will be on its ongoing program to build more coal-fired power plants, and Beijing’s reluctance to commit to a concrete target to cut fossil fuel use as it tries to guarantee energy security and economic growth.

Reuters said China envoy Xie Zhenhua told diplomats in September that phasing out fossil fuels was “unrealistic” while key technologies like energy storage remained immature. Hansen acknowledged that China is pressing ahead with coal-fired plant construction, in order to reach areas of the country without electricity.

“They are in a different place than we are in terms of climate policy,” he said. But the U.S. and China are the world’s two largest economies and largest carbon emitters. “In order for real progress to be made in addressing climate change, both countries have to eventuality reduce their emissions.” But China has pledged, he said, to achieve peak CO2 emissions by 2030 and be carbon neutral by 2060. And while China is still building out its coal infrastructure, it also has made massive investments in renewable energy, especially solar.

Hansen said he’ll be part of a small group traveling together. Apart from the panels, they’ll talk together about some successes they’ve had in diversifying their state economies and the challenges they face. They’ll also be preparing questions to learn about what other countries are doing.

Hansen talked about China frequently being mentioned, in the Legislature and at the U.S. Capitol, as the world’s leading CO2 emitter, and about cynicism regarding its sincerity on change. “I think that’s a legitimate question that there’s a lot of good debate about,” he said. But, “We’re all on the same planet and we’re all impacted by the effects of climate change no matter how much we emit. … China and the United States both need to make significant progress, and I think world leaders understand that.”

Hansen noted that while he’s participating as a delegate, no public money is funding his trip. When Hansen returns, The Dominion Post will talk with him again to learn about his time at COP28.

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