WASHINGTON — Responding to President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the historic Paris Agreement on climate change, dozens of state and local officials have vowed to lead where the president refuses to.
In an open letter Thursday, the mayors of 61 U.S. cities — from Burlington, Vermont, to Los Angeles — promised to meet commitments agreed to under the international accord, namely cutting carbon emissions in an effort to ward off the worst effects of global climate change.
“We will intensify efforts to meet each of our cities’ current climate goals, push for new action to meet the 1.5 degrees Celsius target, and work together to create a 21st century clean energy economy,” the group of mayors wrote.
“The world cannot wait — and neither will we.”
Separately, the governors of California, New York and Washington formed a coalition to convene states committed to taking aggressive action to combat climate change.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, a co-signer of the Climate Mayors letter, told HuffPost after Trump’s announcement that in order to meet the Paris objectives, there’s going to have to be a thoughtful, coordinated effort among local leaders. He called Trump’s move a “terrible assault” on America’s commitment to reducing pollution.
“The president’s announcement is a call to greater action, not less action. It’s a call to a higher level of sensitivity, not a time for merely frustration,” Reed said. “So what should happen from this result is we should see the gravity of his decisions, because there is no Planet B.”
Reed added that he hopes states and communities across the nation realize it’s time to speed up current efforts.
“There’s enough low-hanging fruit in America’s major metros to still achieve our CO₂ reductions ... to the tune of about 25 to 35 percent,” he said. “And that’s worth doing.”
Also among the dozens of signers was Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, who, during a press conference Wednesday, attempted to dissuade Trump from exiting the Paris pact, saying it would damage America’s reputation as an international leader and put future generations at risk.
“No matter what the president decides, I want to make it absolutely clear to the White House and our partners worldwide that the city of Boston won’t back down,” he said. “If this administration turns its back on the environment, cities like Boston will have to step up.”
Walsh reaffirmed Boston’s 2014 commitment to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050.
Other co-signers include Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York, Mayor Steve Adler of Austin, Texas, Mayor Jackie Biskupski of Salt Lake City and Mayor William Peduto of Pittsburgh, Pa.
In a series of posts to Twitter, Pittsburgh’s mayor blasted Trump’s decision and said, “It’s now up to cities to lead.”
In a call with reporters Thursday, California Gov. Jerry Brown called Trump’s decision “tragic” and “insane.” And in the end it could have the opposite of its intended effect, galvanizing cities and the international community to resist Trump’s move and protect the climate, he said.
“California will resist,” Brown said, “because his effort is misguided.”
Shortly after Trump’s announcement, Brown, along with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, all Democrats, announced the formation of the United States Climate Alliance, a coalition that will bring together states committed to upholding the Paris Agreement.
“I am proud to stand with other governors as we make sure that the inaction in D.C. is met by an equal force of action from the states,” Gov. Inslee said in a statement. “Today’s announcement by the president leaves the full responsibility of climate action on states and cities throughout our nation. While the president’s actions are a shameful rebuke to the work needed to protect our planet for our children and grandchildren, states have been and will continue to step up.”
California, New York and Washington, which represent nearly a fifth of the U.S. population, are committed to fulfilling America’s promise under the Paris Agreement to reduce emissions by 26 percent to 28 percent below 2005 levels, the governors wrote in their announcement.
In September, former President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping met at the G20 Summit in Hangzhou, China, where they fortified commitments to reduce carbon emissions by formally joining the Paris Agreement and pledged a “continued bilateral climate cooperation.” That move, along with India’s ratification of the agreement later that month, proved key to the pact taking effect in November.
Surprising no one, Trump announced Thursday, at a press conference in the White House Rose Garden, that he would follow through on his campaign promise by breaking America’s promise to the world that it would do its part to curb global climate change. Trump’s move came despite the pleas of big business, state and local leaders, the fossil fuel industry he’s worked so hard to lift up, and even his own daughter.
James Brainard, the Republican mayor of Carmel, Indiana, who didn’t sign the Climate Mayors open letter, told HuffPost by phone Thursday that Trump likes to talk about greatness, but great countries take a leadership role. They recognize problems and address them, he said. They work to leave behind a clean environment for future generations. And they don’t, Brainard said, align themselves with countries like Syria and Nicaragua — the only other countries outside the Paris accord.
“I think [Trump’s] appealing to a very small percentage of the American electorate when he does this,” he said. “Not only is it a policy mistake that’s bad for the country, I think it’s a political mistake as well.”
Nick Robins-Early contributed to this report.