ALEX CRAWFORD, PUSHING FORWARD
On June 2nd 2017, President Donald Trump made the decision heard ‘round the world, when he decided to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement. This agreement came out of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, France in 2015. The Agreement was put into effect on November 4th 2016 when 55 countries, who make up 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions, signed the agreement. Secretary of State John Kerry signed on April 22 2016, Earth Day, as a symbolic way for the United States to commit to protecting the future of the planet. But President Trump promised to cancel the agreement on the campaign trail.
The Paris Climate Agreement is an essential part of the future of lowering global greenhouse gas emissions and keeping global temperatures from rising 2 degrees Celsius. Although it will legally take up to 4 years to fully withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, the announcement to withdraw, will only strengthen the push of the clean energy revolution.
During a press conference in which he announced the intent to withdraw, President Trump outlined his reasons for leaving the agreement: job losses, the temperature reduction being too minuscule and not providing any long term benefit, the billions of dollars the United States would give out in foreign aid, and most importantly the potential negative economic impacts on the United States economy. The decision to leave was met with praise from private groups and government officials who were worried this agreement would be detrimental to the United States. However, citizens, business, private organizations, political leaders, and other countries denounced the decision. Michael Brune, the executive director of The Sierra Club, one of the United States leading environmental groups said in a statement that, “Donald Trump has made a historic mistake which our grandchildren will look back on with stunned dismay at how a world leader could be so divorced from reality and morality.” With President Trump’s decision, many feared the United States would fall behind in the progress to fight climate change. Because of this, states, local governments, and grassroots activists for the green energy revolution have been in full action mode since President Trump’s announcement to withdraw. Their actions could make President Trump leaving the Paris Agreement the push the United States truly needs to lead the fight on climate change.
In the immediate aftermath of President Trump’s decision, mayors of major U.S. cities took to the media to denounce President Trump’s decision, and declared that they are still in on the Paris Climate Agreement. Despite President Trump saying that he represented the citizens of Pittsburgh and not Paris, the Mayor of Pittsburgh Bill Peduto penned an opinion piece in the New York Times with the Mayor of Paris reaffirming his support for the Paris Agreement. The Governors of Washington, New York, and California joined together to create the United States Climate Alliance. The purpose of this alliance is to commit to achieving the United States goal of reducing emissions 26-28%, as outlined by former President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, from the 2005 levels which would meet and exceed the goal of the Clean Power Plan. Since the creation of this coalition, 10 more states, including Minnesota, Virginia and Oregon, have signed on and agreed to uphold the Paris Agreement. The Republican Governors of Massachusetts and Vermont also pledged to uphold the agreement, and others have expressed their interest and support.
Hawaii has taken the most aggressive action, and has signed The Paris Climate Agreement into law in order to fully commit to lowering their greenhouse gas emissions. Along with governors, mayors from 305 cities, who represent 61 million Americans, have also agreed to continue to lower their greenhouse gas emissions in accordance to The Paris Climate Agreement. Along with government officials, businesses such as Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Starbucks and hundreds of others have agreed to continue to combat climate change. Google has committed to 100% renewable energy in their global operations for 2017. Michael Bloomberg, the former Mayor of New York City, has committed 15 million dollars to make up the United States’ share of The Paris Agreement. Lastly, joining all these groups are hundreds of universities all over the country that have committed their support to lowering their greenhouse gas emissions. President Trump cannot slow climate change progress.
Since the President’s announcement, the United States has seen the commitment on climate change action that grassroots climate change activists have been calling for rapidly increasing. The green revolution has been pushing for action for years, and this decision will be another important motivator to continue to the fight. These actions have been a long time coming, and in the last few years we have seen cities and states say that they are committing to 100% renewable energy by 2035, one of the most recent being Atlanta, Georgia. President Trump’s symbolic announcement to withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, will not slow climate progress in the United States. In fact, it has given the movement new life and might be the motivation needed to continue the fight to lower our carbon emissions over the next 50 years.
This progress and level of commitment will continue into the future, and turn into real action through sustainable measures to lower our carbon emissions on a large scale in the United States. Progress like this has been happening long before President Trump, and will continue to push the movement to new heights, all thanks to his decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. President Trump might be the push the United States needs to truly fight in lowering our carbon emissions, and it’ll be through what grassroots activist have been calling for since the beginning: strong local and state leadership, along with citizen engagement and businesses.
Everyday, more business and cities commit to the fight against climate change, along with the citizens. It’s clear that the green energy revolution is not slowing down, whether or not the federal government wants to be involved. The fight is certainly not over, and with or without the United States being in the Paris Climate Agreement, thanks to the large commitment from citizens, cities, states, businesses and universities, the United States will be moving forward with progress and continue to be a world leader in combating climate change.