In the wake of President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement, hundreds of leaders in politics, business, and education have publicly expressed their disapproval. Numerous pledges have circulated in support of the agreement, most notably the “We Are Still In” letter that has to date been signed by 1,219 businesses, colleges and universities, governors, investors, and mayors. All the signatories have pledged to support climate action to meet the guidelines of the Paris Agreement, and sought to implement such actions in a variety of ways.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City both highlighted the importance of maintaining U.S. climate leadership and signed executive orders formally directing their cities to follow the guidelines of the Paris Agreement. This came after Chicago committed to powering all public buildings with renewable energy by 2025 and de Blasio pledged to cut his city’s emissions by 80 percent by 2050. Mayor Mitch Landrieu of New Orleans took a firm stance as well, signing multiple pledges and claiming that without the Paris Agreement, New Orleans would “cease to exist” due to projected sea level rise. The mayors of major Pacific Northwest cities were also active in their support for the agreement. Ed Murray of Seattle signed agreements for increased climate-related collaboration with Mexico City, Shenzhen (China), and Vancouver (Canada), and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler pledged that his city would operate on 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. Wheeler announced that, following President Trump's decision, “cities must lead the way.”

Several states also took particularly strong actions to demonstrate their commitments to the Paris Agreement. Hawaii became the first state to pass a law to formally abide by the agreement. Signing the legislation, Governor David Ige stated that since Hawaii was likely to be among the first to be affected by climate change, it had to be “first when it comes to creating solutions.”  In his pledge to uphold the agreement, Governor Terry McAuliffe of Virginia proudly declared that his state was the first under the Trump Administration to commit to green policies through executive orders. California adopted one of the most comprehensive climate policies of any U.S. state, planning to cut carbon emissions 40 percent by 2030 and reach 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. According to Kevin de León, president pro tempore of the California state Senate, “[Trump] cannot stop the momentum that’s happening in California. And quite frankly, he can’t halt the global momentum happening right now with regards to climate policies."

Strong support for the Paris Climate Agreement was also found in more traditionally conservative parts of the country. Mayor Robert Donchez of Bethlehem, PA, a historically working-class industrial town, signed both the “We Are Still In” letter and the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda. Des Moines, IA, also came out strongly in favor of the agreement. Having already committed the city to being carbon neutral by 2040, Mayor Frank Cownie claimed that the withdrawal would “not stop Des Moines’ efforts in advancing our own efforts on climate change” and announced he would be extending incentives to businesses that can help further reduce energy emissions. One of the strongest responses came from Mayor Sly James (I) of Kansas City, MO, who proclaimed, “We will buy and create more demand for electric cars and trucks. We will increase our efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, create a clean energy economy, and stand for environmental justice." Mayor Jim Brainard of Carmel, IN, a longtime advocate of green policies, remarked that “Eighty percent of Carmel votes Republican, but I have yet to meet a citizen who wants to drink dirty water, breathe dirty air and doesn’t want to leave the earth in better condition for their children and grandchildren.”

Republican support for the Paris Climate Agreement also emerged at the state level. Larry Hogan and Charlie Baker, the Republican governors of Maryland and Massachusetts, respectively, both signed the “We Are Still In” letter. Hogan, who had previously signed the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act in 2016, claimed leaving the Paris Agreement was “not an action [he] would have taken” and announced future plans for reducing emissions by increasing investments in renewable energy and resiliency efforts. Baker referred to the decision as “disappointing” and stated Massachusetts would continue to “exceed the goals of the Paris Agreement” through its continued efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

Elected officials were not the only ones to come out with meaningful actions in response to the decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. Numerous major companies signed the “We Are Still In” letter, including Apple, Twitter, Amazon, Facebook, and Google. Some, such as Microsoft and IBM, also released statements that highlighted their previous embrace of clean energy initiatives and policies. Nike said they were “deeply disappointed” with the decision and both Lyft and Aveda promised additional climate-friendly initiatives later in 2017. The breadth of corporate signatories of the pledge represents a diverse swath of America's private sector, with traditional liberal advocates Ben & Jerry’s and Patagonia signing next to more apolitical corporations such as Netflix and Spotify.


Author: James Stanish