Cities and states pledge swift climate action in the face of Paris withdrawal

Mayors, governors to world: We got this.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Los Angeles Times, Robert Gauthier, Pool
CREDIT: AP Photo/Los Angeles Times, Robert Gauthier, Pool

On Thursday, President Donald Trump officially announced that the United States would be withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement, citing the deal’s failure “to serve American interests.”

Hours later, governors, mayors, and environmental groups all had a different message: We’ll take it from here.

“Donald Trump has absolutely chosen the wrong course,” California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) said on a press call following Trump’s announcement. “California’s economy and America’s economy is boosted by following the Paris agreement.”

“Donald Trump has absolutely chosen the wrong course.”

In the wake of the Trump administration’s sudden withdrawal from the international stage, local leaders — especially, though not limited to, those in progressive areas of the country — are recommitting to their work on climate policy. Brown, for instance, will reportedly discuss merging California’s existing carbon market — a cap and trade program started in 2012 — with China when he travels to Asia later this week. Canada has also reportedly been reaching out to U.S. governors to try and coordinate work on climate change.

Brown also joined with Govs. Jay Inslee (D-WA) and Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) to create the United States Climate Alliance, a coalition that will include states committed to meeting emission reduction targets previously submitted to the Paris climate agreement regardless of what action the federal government takes. Together, California, Washington, and New York represent one-fifth of the United States’ GDP — creating an economy larger than most countries that are party to the Paris agreement. The states also account for at least 10 percent of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

“I am proud to stand with other governors as we make sure that the inaction in D.C. is met by an equal force of action from the states,” Inslee said in a press statement announcing the creation of the alliance on Thursday. “Today’s announcement by the president leaves the full responsibility of climate action on states and cities throughout our nation. While the president’s actions are a shameful rebuke to the work needed to protect our planet for our children and grandchildren, states have been and will continue to step up.”

U.S. mayors also voiced their criticism of Trump’s decision, vowing to recommit to local efforts to curb climate change. Cities are responsible for 75 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, meaning that even small changes in city-wide policies — retrofitting street lamps with LED bulbs, for instance, or deploying electric vehicles for city-owned cars — can make a big dent in the country’s overall emissions.

“Austin will not stop fighting climate change,” Steve Adler, mayor of Austin, Texas, said in a press statement following Trump’s announcement. “Worldwide, cities will lead in achieving climate treaty goals because so much of what’s required happens at the local level. Regardless of what happens around us, we’re still Austin, Texas.”

Yesterday, 83 mayors — who represent 40 million Americans in total — committed to honoring the U.S. commitments made in Paris regardless of the Trump administration.

That’s in addition to a coalition of 30 mayors, three governors, more than 80 university presidents and more than 100 businesses — led by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg — that is asking the United Nations to reconsider its stance on allowing cities and states to submit pledged to the Paris agreement. Right now, only nations can be party to the agreement, though Bloomberg told the New York Times that he is hopeful that a “parallel” pledge from U.S. cities and states would indicate to the world that the United States has not ceded all of its climate leadership.

And it’s not just the commitments made in Paris that cities and localities are pledging to adopt. Following Trump’s Paris announcement, the City of Portland, Oregon, as well as its surrounding county, pledged to obtain 100 percent of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2050 — including energy, transportation, and industry.

“In order to protect our environment and our communities from the threat posed by the Trump administration’s climate policies, local and state jurisdictions must step forward to make up the difference when crafting environmental policy,” Multnomah County Commissioner Jessica Vega said in a press statement. “I am proud of the work we have done engaging stakeholders and the public on this important commitment. We must continue to lead the way.”

Across the United States, more than 20 cities have committed to going 100 percent renewable.

“We can’t count on our federal government to make progress on climate change over the next four years, so cities and towns across the U.S. are stepping up,” Sierra Club’s Oregon chapter director Erica Stock said in a statement.