In 2015, 195 countries agreed to the Paris Climate Agreement, also known as the Paris Climate Accord, marking a historic milestone within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. On Sept. 3, 2016, President Barack Obama signed the accord and added the United States to the list of countries stepping up for the planet. According to the New York Times, the Paris Climate Agreement involves a pledge made by each involved country that includes an outline of how each country intends to keep greenhouse gas emissions in check and combat the oftentimes irreversible effects of climate change.
On June 1, 2017, President Donald Trump announced that the United States would abandon the Paris Climate Agreement, joining Nicaragua and Syria as the only countries to reject the vital agreement. Standing up to the failed leadership oozing from the White House, however, are individual American states and cities that know that pushing for and maintaining climate change legislation is a matter of planetary life or death.
California, New York, and Washington are three of the states that are standing up to President Trump’s dismissal of the Paris Climate Agreement and climate change science in general. According to the Los Angeles Times, California, New York, and Washington came together to create the U.S. Climate Alliance, pledging to uphold the Paris Climate Agreement. The alliance involves both Democrats and Republicans and reaches out to other states to set forth a plan to remain in compliance with the carbon emissions cuts outlined by the Paris Climate Agreement, independently of guidance from President Trump. According to E&E News, the Alliance is working to lower carbon emissions by 26 to 28 percent below levels from 2005 by the year 2025.
Another effort led by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is focused on guiding cities toward the same goal of compliance, boasting a list of 150 cities so far. According to the Los Angeles Times, there are estimations that 70 to 80 percent of cuts to carbon emissions stem from local and state levels. An organization called We Are Still In, consisting of city and state governments, higher education institutions, and powerful corporations such as Google and Apple, has also vowed to maintain the standards of the Paris Climate Agreement.
Silicon Valley CEOs such as Apple CEO Tim Cook, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk also spoke out in opposition of President Trump’s actions. Their words stand in stark contrast to President Trump’s claims that the Agreement would have cost the American people billions of dollars. The California tech industry instead states that the withdrawal has created new risks of immense job loss and damage to international trade.
California Gov. Jerry Brown will represent his state’s fiery opposition to President Trump’s actions by hosting the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco in Sept. 2018. The international Summit will be historic, as California steps up to the plate to address plans of how to sustain the pledge of the Paris Climate Agreement under current national circumstances. Gov. Brown has also met with German and Chinese officials to discuss environmental legislation and establish cooperation on topics such as clean energy.
During President George W. Bush’s presidency, California made significant and historical effort in reducing its impact on the global climate by passing AB 32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. This was during a time where national efforts to mitigate climate change were few and far in between. The present-day efforts by state and city alliances echo those of the past in times when federal climate change legislation fell short of what the planet requires. Through continuing to garner support at local and state levels, we may have the power to circumvent near-sighted presidents and policymakers.