On June 1st, 2017, President Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the landmark Paris climate accord, sparking serious concern about the future of global efforts to mitigate climate change. In response, cities, states, and corporations across the United States are collaborating to submit a plan to the United Nations ensuring that the U.S. fulfills its emissions targets under the Paris accord – with or without support from the United States federal government.
The “We Are Still In” pledge boasts over 1,400 signatories as of June 12th, 2017, including: 211 mayors (united as “The Mayors National Climate Action Agenda”), 13 governors including Puerto Rico’s (as the bipartisan “U.S. Climate Alliance”), 120 universities, and more than 1,000 businesses (including more than sixty Fortune 500 companies so far). The growing effort is being coordinated by former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, who also serves as the U.N. Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change. As of mid-June 2017, there is no formal legal process for non-nation entities to subscribe as “full parties” to the Paris accord or to submit action proposals, but that isn’t stopping the new coalition from continuing to advance climate efforts in the United States to prevent global temperatures from increasing by more than 2 degrees Celsius, one of the Paris accord’s stated goals. It is estimated that the current members of the coalition already represent more than a third the gross domestic product of the United States and together would exceed the world’s third-largest economy behind the U.S. and China. We expect these numbers to grow as more jurisdictions and companies join this movement.
In the near term, members of the coalition are focused on determining precisely what level of impact is possible through their efforts, and they are not hesitating to challenge protocol. On June 6, Hawaii became the first state to pass legislation affirming its dedication to the goals of the Paris accord alongside 195 nations across the globe. Two bills signed by Governor David Ige set the state on track to hitting the greenhouse gas emissions targets as outline in the accord and created a task force to make improvements to soil health that will cut down on atmospheric sources of carbon. These laws pave the way for more states to follow suit and independently “join” the Paris accord.
Overall, much of the reaction at the U.S. state and city level to the Trump administration’s decision has united a wide range of localities in the United States, with some of the nation’s most powerful stakeholders working across industries and party lines on the issue. Time will tell whether the momentum will be enough to keep the U.S. from falling behind in international efforts to curb the effects of global climate change. I am a strong believer that U.S. states and cities will be successful and, despite a bumpy ride, the United States will be a global leader in advancing new energy technologies and renewable energy generation.