One year ago today, President Donald Trump announced that the United States would exit the Paris Agreement. Although not unexpected at the time, given the president’s public statements and positions on climate change, it sent shockwaves around the country and the world, and represented a major setback in the climate movement. Given our stature in the world and the gravity of the climate crisis, the U.S. should be at the forefront of this global movement, not sitting on the sidelines.
The impact of Trump’s decision to exit the Paris Agreement created an immediate backlash in states and local communities, many of which responded by strengthening their commitments to fight climate change. As of today, 2,770 leaders across all 50 states, representing 160 million people, have signed on to the “We Are Still In” movement, a declaration that reads, “We, the undersigned mayors, county executives, governors, tribal leaders, college and university leaders, businesses, faith groups, and investors are joining forces for the first time to declare that we will continue to support climate action to meet the Paris Agreement.” Seventeen states, representing over 40 percent of the U.S. population, formed and joined the U.S. Climate Alliance with the purpose of meeting the targets set by of the Paris Agreement.
Fortunately, the U.S. cannot officially leave the Paris Agreement until November 4, 2020, the day after the next presidential election. During the next campaign, candidates could pledge to reverse the Trump administration’s decision on the first day in office, placing the country back into global cooperation and leadership on this critical issue.
Climate change figures to be a major issue in that election, given the growing importance and urgency of climate action, and this administration’s repeated attempts to roll back existing global warming solutions. In the fall of 2017, the administration rolled back the Clean Power Plan, which would have cut carbon pollution 32 percent nationwide by 2030. On April 2 of this year, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Scott Pruitt announcedhis intention to roll back the nation’s most significant climate program, the Clean Car Standards. These standards would double the fuel economy of cars by 2035 and avoid billions of metric tons of carbon pollution from the transportation sector, which is now the number one source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. They are also threatening to take away states’ rights to set stronger emission standards.
Unlike President Trump, the American people recognize climate change is a serious problem and want to do something about it. Polls show that 50 percent of Americans believe that they will be personally harmed by global warming, and 75 percent think future generations will be harmed. Americans care about the safety and health of their families, homes and businesses, which are being impacted by extreme weather, wildfires, tick-borne diseases and other worsening climate-related impacts — and they care about the future for their children and grandchildren.
We are also seeing real progress on cutting carbon pollution at the regional level. In the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, a regional partnership called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) has cut carbon pollution in half since 2009, and in December 2017, the states from Maine to Maryland agreed to strengthen their commitment to cut carbon pollution by another 30 percent by 2030.
Renewable energy, especially solar and wind, is rapidly expanding. The United States now has enough solar capacity installed to power over ten million homes, 26 times more capacity than we had installed at the end of 2010. Many cities, college campuses, and businesses, including giants like Apple, have committed to 100 percent renewable energy.
In September, Gov. Brown and Mayor Bloomberg will host the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, which will celebrate all of these commitments and actions by states, cities, businesses and more, showing the world that despite what President Trump and this administration may think, we are still in.
The impacts of a warming climate, spelled out in the National Climate Assessment released by the Trump administration last fall, are dire. But we have the solutions at hand, and the political will to act on climate is growing. Now is the time for all of us to lean in and fight for a stable climate. We must do it, and we can do it.