Joe Mathieu: World leaders are meeting in Germany for a major conference on climate change. The nations are all parties to the Paris Agreement, which President Trump has announced the U.S. is withdrawing from. But that's not stopping many from Massachusetts from showing up in Germany to declare their support. WGBH radio's environmental reporter Craig LeMoult is here to talk with us about that. Good morning, Craig.

Craig LeMoult: Hi, Joe.

JM: What's the goal of the meeting?

CL: I talked to Robert Stavins of the Harvard Kennedy School who's going to be in Bonn, Germany for the meeting, and he said there's a lot of important business to attend:

Stavins (on tape): "What needs to happen now is to continue the process of putting meat on the bones of the Paris Climate Agreement, which itself is a very brief outline. So there are a whole set of issues on which rules have to be written."

CL: And he's going to be there trying to help those rules get written in such a way that allows countries to work together more effectively to meet the goals of reducing carbon emissions.

JM: How significant is it to the Paris Agreement specifically that the president announced the U.S. withdrawal?

CL: Stavins actually said things don't seem as bad for the international process as many who are involved in this were worried they might be.

Stavins (on tape): "The worst possible outcome and the outcome we feared of the U.S. withdrawal would be that other key countries, and particularly the large emerging economies: China, India, Brazil, Korea, South Africa, Mexico, Indonesia, that they might backtrack [or] change their announced contributions."

CL: But Stevens actually said they're not doing that. He said China, in particular, is happy to go from being a co-leader in this process to being a solo leader, and countries like India and Brazil have also said that they're in. He also pointed out that although the president announced the withdrawal, the process won't begin until three years after that. It won't be actually finalized until two days after the next general election.

JM: But in the meantime, the U.S. is not taking steps to meet the goals initially promised, right?

CL: Right. The U.S. committed to reducing emissions by 26 to 28 percent by the year 2025 — that's relative to 2005. And Stavins says we're not going to meet that. But that's not because we dropped out of the Paris Agreement. He says that's because of reversals of other Obama-era policies like the Clean Power Plan that sought to limit emissions.

JM: So we heard from Mr. Stavins — who else from Massachusetts is going into the conference?

CL: A group of state lawmakers are going to be attending the conference, including State Representative Jennifer Benson who I spoke with.

Benson (on tape): "We can go and show the world that, yes, we are still engaged, we're still in this fight, we believe this is an issue. And even if we have to do it on a state by state basis, we're still going to continue to work."

CL: The State House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill last week that puts the state on record as supporting the Paris Agreement. And there's a partnership of about 2500 cities, states, colleges and businesses around the country who have signed on to a declaration pledging to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. It's called 'We Are Still In'. It includes a lot of groups and organizations, [and] cities and towns here in Massachusetts. I spoke with Michael Green. He's with the Climate Action Business Association here in Boston, and he's planning on going to the meeting as well. His group is actually bringing Representative Benson and other lawmakers.

Green (on tape): "Our businesses want people to know the global community that the Trump administration doesn't speak for them. That there are American businesses and American state leaders that want to see action on climate change. They want to see a price on carbon and they really want America to continue to be a leader on this issue."

JM: So he mentioned putting the price on carbon, you mentioned efforts on the state level. There's a proposal that is actually being considered here in Massachusetts — how would it work?

CL: Right. In the House, the bill was introduced by Representative Benson. In the Senate, the champion of this idea is Senator Michael Barrett, who explained to me that while we do have a price on carbon with energy generation in the form of the so-called Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (or REGGI), we don't have anything for other carbon sources, especially for transportation, which of course is a big deal. So his bill would charge an upfront fee related to the carbon footprint of things like gas. He's hoping that would actually cause people to cut back a bit.

Barrett (on tape): "And that's all we're looking for here, is some New England frugality to address climate change and get us below our current emissions profile."

CL: It's important to note that the money that was collected would actually be returned to consumers later in a sort of a rebate form or maybe some of it would go to energy efficiency programs. But the idea is it would reduce the emissions upfront.

JM: This is in proposal form now. Is it actually likely to go through?

CL: Of course, as you know, Joe, things sometimes take a long time to get through. It might have to be introduced a few more times. But Senator Barrett was actually pretty positive about what he thought the bill's future was.

Barrett (on tape): "I'm actually cautiously optimistic that we're going to see the Senate take affirmative action putting a price on carbon, and then all eyes will turn toward the house."

CL: So we'll see where it goes there, but as we talked about, the House did pass a bill last week to commit Massachusetts to meeting the Paris Agreement.

JM: How long does the UN conference go for?

CL: This week and next week.

JM: So it's a two-week event.

CL: Yup

JM: Thanks for bringing us in on that, WGBH Radio Environmental Reporter Craig LeMoult.

This transcript has been edited for clarity.