American cities commit to climate accord

The US may be withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement, but numerous states, cities and companies have pledged to uphold it. New York’s former mayor, Michael Bloomberg, is coordinating the effort. John Dyer reports.

American cities and states form coalition to defend Paris climate agreement. (Image credit: Anthony Quintano, flickr/Creative Commons)

When President Donald Trump announced his intention to quite the Paris Accord on Thursday, he cited the American city synonymous with steel.

“I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” said the Republican real estate mogul and ex-reality television star.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto wasn’t pleased.

“This city does not support the initiatives that he is doing. This city is adamantly opposed to them,” said Peduto, a Democrat. “For him to use this city as his example of who he is elected to represent — he’s not representing us at all, or not very well.”

Bloomberg spearheads climate action

Now Peduto is joining a host of local officials, chief executives, university presidents and others who have launched a campaign to reduce carbons emissions locally or privately on a scale that they hope would keep the country on track with its commitments under the Paris agreement.

“While the executive branch of the US government speaks on behalf of our nation in matters of foreign affairs, it does not determine many aspects of whether and how the United States takes action on climate change,” wrote the group’s leader, Michael Bloomberg, to United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres in a draft letter released to the press.

“The bulk of the decisions which drive U.S. climate action in the aggregate are made by cities, states, businesses, and civil society. Collectively, these actors remain committed to the Paris accord.”

Electric jolt

Bloomberg said he was forming a coalition of more than 200 bigwigs to adopt renewable energy sources that would reduce US carbon emissions.

The group includes the governors of California, New York and Washington State; the mayors of Atlanta, New York City, Los Angeles; corporate leaders from Hewlett-Packard, confectioner Mars and elsewhere; and 80 university presidents.

“The electric jolt of the last 48 hours is accelerating this process that was already underway,” said Robert Orr, the dean of the University of Maryland School of Public Policy and an ex-diplomat who helped negotiated the Paris accord.

“It’s not just the volume of actors that is increasing, it’s that they are starting to coordinate in a much more integral way.”

Governors have significant influence

The governors especially have significant influence in reducing American greenhouse gas emissions. Take California as an example. Because of the size of its population and economy, the state’s air quality standards and vehicle regulations often dictate how the rest of the country behaves.

California is already on track to reducing its carbon footprint to 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030.

Similarly, New York’s status as the financial center of the world often means its laws are models for the rest of the country. It has already committed to cutting carbon emissions by 80 per cent of 1990 levels by 2050.

“We will not ignore the science and reality of climate change, which is why I am also signing an executive order confirming New York’s leadership role in protecting our citizens, our environment, and our planet,” said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Businessmen like Elon Musk echoed Cuomo. The PayPal founder who now runs electric carmaker Tesla and other Silicon Valley businesses quit Trump’s council of economic advisors along with Disney boss Robert Iger.

“Climate change is real,” he tweeted. “Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world.”


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