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State, city leaders strike defiant tone, pledging action on climate


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State, city leaders strike defiant tone, pledging action on climate

President Donald Trump's decision to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement on climate change was met with defiance from some state and local officials who vowed to continue working toward the agreement's goal of limiting the increase in global temperatures.

After Trump criticized the international accord on June 1 as a bad deal for America, the governors of California, Washington and New York announced the formation of the U.S. Climate Alliance, a coalition of states that are committed to taking "aggressive action on climate change." Separately, Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto issued an executive order promoting "climate control initiatives," including a target to power all municipal operations with renewable energy by 2030. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also plans to sign an executive order "to honor the goals of the Paris agreement."

Those three states together represented roughly 13% of U.S. electric retail sales in 2015.

"This will spur a tidal wave of climate action by U.S. states, cities, businesses and citizens. I bet the U.S. will meet its Paris 2030 pledge," Michael Liebreich, chairman of Bloomberg New Energy Finance's advisory board, said of Trump's decision via Twitter. "So pulling out of Paris stiffens everyone else's resolve to act on climate, marginalizing Trump and the anti-climate headbangers. Sweet!"

SNL Image

President Donald Trump in the White House Rose Garden announcing his decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Source: AP

Under the nonbinding accord, the U.S. pledged to reduce economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions by up to 28% below 2005 levels in 2025. Each of the 147 countries that have ratified the agreement were able to set their own national objectives. The overarching goal is to limit the increase in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The agreement also established a minimum funding goal of $100 billion per year from developed countries to support the climate change goals of developing nations.

"The rest of the world applauded when we signed the Paris agreement. They went wild. They were so happy, for the simple reason that it put our country, the United States of America, which we all love, at a very, very big economic disadvantage," Trump said, adding that he is open to renegotiating the accord. France, Germany and Italy said the agreement cannot be renegotiated.

Critics said Trump's decision forfeited America's global leadership position and showed a mistaken belief that lowering emissions stifles economic growth.

"Pittsburgh in the past 30 years has come back from a depression. We had unemployment nearly 19%. We know what it's like to have a very, very bad economy. But at the same time, we didn't invest in our past. We invested in our future," Peduto told CNN on June 1. "We are the example of what the Paris agreement could mean to jobs and the economy for the United States."

California Gov. Jerry Brown on June 2 planned to fly to China, which invested $17.2 billion in clean energy last year, to try to strengthen the state's climate, clean energy and economic ties with that country. On May 31, the California Senate advanced a measure calling for the state to get all of its electricity from renewables by 2045.

New York directed its utilities to get half of their electricity from renewables by 2030. "New York State is committed to meeting the standards set forth in the Paris Accord regardless of Washington's irresponsible actions," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement, adding that the state "will not ignore the science and reality of climate change."

"It's obvious that when our federal government fails us, local governments have to step up," de Blasio said at a press conference June 1. "And if cities and towns and counties and states all over the country step up and agree to abide by the Paris Agreement, we can forestall the worst."