We all watched in horror as the current administration announced they would be withdrawing the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement. The President stated that the agreement “imposed wildly unfair environmental standards on American businesses and workers”. While this action drew the President support from the Republican Party it drew skepticism and criticism from political leaders, business executives and other world leaders. In an attempt to save face the President made phone contact with world leaders to show support for the Trans-Atlantic Alliance and show that the administration remains committed to protecting the environment. Soon after the announcement of the withdrawal France, Germany and Italy issued statements indicating that the Paris Climate Accord is “irreversible and could not be renegotiated”.
The agreement and the work supporting a better planet will continue to move forward but there are a few areas where the American presence will be missed. Within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) the U.S. Served a prominent role in the negotiation process and the tracking of pledges. The U.S. science, climate data and analytics have also been very pivotal and a important contribution to the science-based decision making within the pact. The U.S. withdrawal will make room for a power jostle within the pact. China, the European Union, India, and Brazil are all open to the jostle for leadership and influence. Smaller developing countries that agreed to the pact in the hopes that they would be able to reduce their emissions while growing their economy may begin to withdraw. With the U.S. withdrawal goes the $3 billion in aid pledged to poorer countries. The allure to continue the agreement may not seem as hopeful as it once was.
While the world may not have been rocked by this announcement (chances are they expected it from months of campaign trail promises) the American public has had their hopes dashed. The response has not been a negative attitude or filled with hate. It has brought the states, cities, and corporations together under one accord. The pledge is to continue the work of the U.S. pledge to the Paris Agreement. Elon Musk of Tesla, Jeffery Immelt of General Electric and Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs agree that the decision to withdraw will ultimately do damage to our economy by “ceding the jobs of the future in clean energy and technology to overseas competitors”. I.B.M. Has reaffirmed their support for the Paris Agreement through a press release where they stated “This agreement requires all participating countries to put forward their best efforts on climate change as determined by each country””. “I.B.M. believes that it is easier to lead outcomes by being at the table, as a participant in the agreement, rather than from outside it”.
Corporations like I.B.M. Goldman Sachs, Tesla, Nike, Unilever, Levi Strauss and Co., Starbucks, Hilton, L’Oreal, and North Face and nearly 600 others all urged the President to uphold the Agreement. Some of these same companies have now signed America’s Pledge. America’s Pledge is led by Bloomberg Philanthropies. The Pledge began with an open letter to the world acknowledging that even though the Federal government has pulled the U.S. from the Paris Agreement the whole of America still remains committed to the pact and the changes needed. The letter also served as a reminder to the American people that the commitment to the pact “is not up to the Federal government. It is up to all of us”.
It seems like everyone is chiming in with their opinions of this ill-informed decision. Our former Commander in Chief is no different. Former President Obama said “the nations that remain in the Paris Agreement will be the nations that reap the benefits in jobs and industries created” “Even in the absence of American leadership; even as this administration joins a small handful of nations that reject the future; I’m confident that our states, cities, and businesses will step up and do even more to lead the way and help protect for further generations the one planet we’ve got”.
Obama did not point any direct fingers in his response but it is very clear that the current administration is abdicating their responsibility to help the world save our planet. The President has stated his commitment to renegotiating the U.S. role in the agreement so that it better serves the American people. The campaign-like speeches continued when he stated that it is time to put Youngstown, Ohio, Detroit, Michigan, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania before Paris, France. I’m sure there are may Trump supporters that agree but the Mayor of Pittsburgh Bill Peduto responded with “I can assure you that we will follow the guidelines of the Paris Agreement for our people, our economy and future. The people that Trump thinks are behind this heinous decision are rallying with other local and state governments to move their communities forward in saving our planet.
Initially the U.S. pledged to reduce emissions by 26-28% of the 2005 levels by 2025. There are states leading this movement and those that are just getting onboard. Hawaii is “now the first state to sign a law to commit to the U.S. Paris Agreement”. California currently has a waiver that allows them to set stricter auto emissions standards than what the Federal government has on record. Other states have adopted similar standards. This foreces automakers to produce vehicles that meet those standards.
Currently residential and commercial buildings makes up about 40% of the U.S. energy consumption. The Bullitt Center in Seattle has become the first net-zero building and has paved the way for future low to no emissions building through the use of green infrastructure.
There are many ways that we can further this movement without the Federal governments support, but can they stop us? Of course they can! The Trump Administration has already threatened to pull the waiver that California has for stricter auto emission standards. They can also deny states and local governments funding just as they have threatened for sanctuary cities that are refusing to comply with Federal immigration policies. This further opens the door for states to then sue the Federal government in response.
It warms my heart and makes me a little giddy that when American’s face adversity (in this case our own government getting in our way) we stand together and find an alternate path. The Federal government may not want to play well with others to save our home but as a group, as a whole we make the difference. Remember that when the mid-term elections come around. It takes four years to fully withdraw from the Paris Agreement, so remember that when the next Presidential election arrives. We still have a chance to win this fight.
Please take a moment to check out the communities and groups who have signed on to America’s Pledge.