In Step on Climate

By Lindsey Mendelson
Fellow

Two years ago this very day, the United States reached an historic international agreement in Paris committing to address the global threat of climate change with nearly 200 hundred nations. In 2015, the United States was one of the biggest players in the room. Fast-forward to today, and the picture looks quite different. We are the odd one out — the only nation on the planet now stepping away from this critical global action.

As the agreement reaches its second birthday, there is still no sign the Trump administration is rethinking its reckless and short-sighted decision to leave the accord. This decision certainly doesn’t bode well for the planet: 377 members of the National Academy of Sciences warned that “the consequences of opting out of the global community would be severe and long-lasting — for our planet’s climate and for the international credibility of the United States.” The American Academy of Pediatrics diagnosed the president’s decision as a “dangerous step backward to protecting public health.” Senior military and national security experts at the Center for Climate and Security indicated that the President’s decision to withdraw will have “serious, negative strategic implications for the United States.”

But the Administration’s decision to exit the agreement, which will not be official until 2020, will not and should not stop our legislators, businesses and institutions from protecting our health and the wellbeing of future generations. Fortunately, many other American leaders are stepping into the breach and acting on the moral imperative to reduce the pollution that is accelerating global warming.

The We Are Still In coalition representing 2,500 leaders from state and local governments across the country has vowed to combat climate change and uphold the agreement. Fourteen states and Puerto Rico have formed the U.S. Climate Alliance and are committing to reduce global warming pollution to levels consistent with the Paris Accord.

Preeminent business and local leaders across the country have made their individual support for the agreement loud and clear:

“The decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement was wrong for our planet. Apple is committed to fight climate change and we will never waver.”

—Tim Cook, CEO of Apple.

“We’re disappointed with the decision to exit the Paris Agreement. Microsoft remains committed to doing our part to achieve its goals.”

—Brad Smith, CEO of Microsoft.

“We ‘adopt, honor, and uphold the commitments to the goals enshrined in the Paris Agreement’ and are working together to create a 21st century clean energy economy.”

—386 US Climate Mayors, representing 68 million Americans.

Spotlight: Strong Progress in the Northeastern United States

The Northeast is a shining example of how states can plow ahead to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement in the absence of federal leadership.

Nine northeastern states from Maine to Maryland have worked together to cut global warming pollution in half since 2005 through a program called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). And on the Paris Agreement’s second Anniversary today, they just announced that they are making it even stronger, and it will reduce pollution by another 30 percent by 2030. The beauty of this partnership is that it is bipartisan. With five of the governors Republicans and four Democrats, these states show that it is more than possible to work across party lines to deliver real, bipartisan progress for their constituents — in the form of over 50 percent less pollution and $2.6 billion more to spend on clean energy and energy efficiency.

Here is a closer look at what the Governors are saying about their role in combating climate change:

“Maryland is committed to finding real bipartisan, common sense solutions to protect our environment, combat climate change, and improve our air quality”

—Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, Republican

“In the absence of federal leadership on climate change, RGGI is a critically important tool for ensuring real reductions in planet-warming greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.”

—Delaware Governor John Carney, Democrat

“RGGI’s success exemplifies New York’s commitment to protecting the people of this state by showing the world that we will cut pollution and improve health, while transforming our economy into one that is cleaner, greener, stronger, and more sustainable than ever before.”

—New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Democrat

“The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative builds upon the strong collaboration of nine diverse states committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting a clean energy economy in a regional, bipartisan manner.”

—Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, Republican

“The success of the RGGI program — and the proposals to make it even more effective — stand in sharp contrast to the Trump administration’s shortsighted and wholesale retreat on climate issues.”

—Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy, Democrat

“As a coastal state, Rhode Island is uniquely vulnerable to climate change. Today, I’m taking executive action to endorse RGGI’s stronger, regional approach to climate change.”

—Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo, Democrat

“Through this collaborative effort, Vermont and our regional partners in this initiative are better positioned to pursue our aggressive goals to reduce carbon emissions and commit to renewable energy, while keeping energy rates down and putting money back in the pockets of Vermonters.”

—Vermont Governor Phil Scott, Republican

“We have to make sure we stay competitive, both economically socially and environmentally. We understand what the goals of the program are. So, given the program and where we are today, I’m very happy with the deal that’s been struck.”

—New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, Republican