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The Post-Paris Blues; So Now What?

By Andrew Grandahl

As anticipated, President Donald Trump has officially withdrawn the United States from participation in the 2015 Paris Climate Accord. The move is undoubtedly a blow in the global fight against climate change, but as the dust clears, powerful alliances can be seen forming in the U.S. Can such an ill-advised decision catalyze new movements and forces for good?

“I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris”, spoke the president during the White House rose garden press conference in which he formally announced the U.S.’s departure from the 2015 Paris Climate Accord. This single quote in many ways succinctly exemplifies the president’s clear misunderstanding of the implications, requirements, and implementation of the Paris Agreement. His statements suggest it is a pro-Paris agreement, not a global agreement that was forged by international leaders in Paris.

That said, this should come as no surprise. In the months and weeks leading up to his announcement on June 1st, Trump was repeatedly advised by members of his own cabinet, economic councils, the scientific community, international leaders, and countless corporate executives to remain in the deal for both environmental and economic reasons. Clearly, the specifics of the agreement were never of much interest to the president, as he has decided to forego the recommendations of experts and forge ahead with his remarkably shortsighted, fossil-fuel first agenda. In essence, the president has put a small group of lobbyists before the environment and future employees of the renewable energy industry, while ceding the growth of the energy jobs market to our international competitors, specifically China. Rather ironic, after campaigning on how badly “China is killing us” economically.

We could certainly go on at length about the different ways in which pulling out of the Paris deal is going to harm us economically, and the list of short-term and long-term environmental concerns and the potential human impact of this is extensive and troubling. However, let’s focus on the response of different states, cities, and companies since the president’s announcement. In light of such a regressive decision, the reactions and resilience displayed around the U.S. have been truly hope-inspiring.

Take a trip over to wearestillin.com. There you will find a powerful message of unified vision and solidarity towards keeping in line with the provisions of the Paris Agreement from an extensive list of representatives of states, counties, cities, colleges, universities, business, investors, and 19 state attorney generals. After scrolling through the vast list of signatories, you’ll find quotes from leaders in government and business, speaking in blunt terms about the need to combat climate change and cooperate on every level. Take for example Los Angeles mayor, Eric Garcetti. Mayor Garcetti states, “Climate change is a fact of life that people in Los Angeles and cities around the world live with every day. It is a grave threat to our health, our environment, and our economy — an urgent challenge that requires unprecedented collaboration. The President may be pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement, but L.A. will lead by committing to the goals of the accord — and working closely with over 200 other Climate Mayors as well as governors and CEOs across the U.S. to do the same.”

Mayor Garcetti’s words ring true, and his thoughts are mirrored by countless leaders in politics and in business. Governments of several U.S. states have combined to forge the “United States Climate Alliance”, a group dead-set on meeting the standards set up by Paris. States in the alliance include California, New York, Washington, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Virginia, Hawaii and more. More states seem to be interested in joining the alliance as well; Illinois, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Ohio, Maryland and several other states have governing officials expressing support for the Paris Agreement and U.S. Climate Alliance. Time will tell how serious they are about actually committing, but there is reason to be optimistic.

These networks are no small gesture of hope; they are extremely significant movements that represent states with populations totalling over 100 million Americans. They also represent a large percentage of U.S. emissions, and over 6.5 trillion dollars of GDP. As an economic entity, the U.S. Climate Alliance is the fourth largest economy on Earth, and is all in on the Paris Agreement. As California Governor Jerry Brown meets overseas with Chinese heads of state, including China’s Ministry of Science and Technology, as well as Chinese president Xi Jinping to discuss unified commitments to emissions reductions, it hardly seems as if much of the country or the world has taken notice to the President’s poor decision-making. Trump’s choice to withdraw is a move that is out of touch with what is going on in the United States, from small rural towns to the most powerful financial markets. No American needs to be told what to do when it comes to their energy sources or their investments.

As for the residents of Pittsburgh, Mayor Bill Peduto issued an executive order to enable his city to adhere to the Paris regulations just a day after Trump’s announcement. It looks like the citizens of steel city can represent themselves just fine, Mr. President.

Andrew Grandahl is a guest blogger for Climable.org. You can reach him at andrewgrandahl@gmail.com