On June 1st 2017, the government of the United States of America announced its unfortunate intentions to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. The landmark accord, that outlined a crucial framework to curtail global greenhouse gas emissions and limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius in order to obviate the most egregious impacts of climate change. “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” President Donald Trump declaimed from the Rose Garden of the White House in a vain attempt to portray his decision as a triumph for working-class plebeians in Pennsylvania and not elite parfumeurs in Paris. For this justification, he was chastised by the mayor of Pittsburgh, Bill Peduto, who reminded him that his 2016 presidential election opponent received 75% of Pittsburgh’s vote and penned a joint op-ed with parisian Mayor Anne Hidalgo in The New York Times reaffirming their commitment to uphold the Paris Agreement and to move towards carbon neutrality in their municipalities. Unsurprisingly, President Trump’s decision provoked widespread censure from the international community. Charles Michel, the prime minister of Belgium, condemned the decision as a “brutal act”. German chancellor Angela Merkel, italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni, and french president Emmanuel Macron released a rare, joint statement that “deem[ed] the momentum generated in Paris in December 2015 irreversible” and repudiated Trump’s suggestion that the Paris Agreement be renegotiated in order to assuage his nationalist “America First” predilections. Most famously, Emmanuel Macron outdid his trilateral statement from the grandeur of the Elysée Palace in an address, largely intended for the American people that was partially delivered in English, tampering with Trumps famous slogan to craft a witty exhortation: “Make our planet great again.” Despite the opprobrium that the United States received from world leaders and foreign editorial boards for its intentions, which have been recently compounded with a regressive decision by the United States Environmental Protection Agency to repeal the Clean Power Plan, the principal climate policy enacted by former president Barack Obama’s administration, the rest of the world should not dismiss the United States from the global climate fight—Americans beyond the federal government are stepping up to reinforce the commitments the previous administration made in Paris.
Hours after President Trump cleaved America from the ideals of the Paris Agreement on June 1, California governor Jerry Brown, Washington governor Jay Inslee, and New York governor Andrew Cuomo announced the inception of the United States Climate Alliance. A subnational pact of states and territories that would pursue the emissions targets expressed by the United States in the accord, which constitutes a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. “Smart, coordinated state action can ensure that the United States continues to contribute to the global effort to address climate change,” the governors rebutted, contradicting the Trump administration. Membership in the USCA has since expanded to include fifteen US states and territories with governors hailing from both the Democratic and Republican parties. The USCA members, emboldened with wherewithal, supplying much of America’s economic output and almost 40% of its GDP, and growing in membership by the month, are now poised to meet the reduction goals of 26 to 28 percent pledged by the US in Paris. They have positioned themselves at the vanguard of an American clean energy transition that has been abruptly disregarded by new environmental administrators at the federal level who are more apt to serve the moneyed interests of fossil-fuel lobbyists with lax enforcement of environmental protections, a favor for environmental deregulation, and repeals of critical policies that reduce the detrimental impacts of industrial and agricultural pollutants. In recent months, American state governors have become conspicuous global envoys; Governor Brown of California jetted to China just two days after Trump’s announcement to forge climate policy with President Xi Jinping and has championed the continued involvement of states of the American West in the Western Climate Initiative, a nonprofit cap-and-trade market California established with other states and Canadian provinces. Promisingly, the WCI, beset by past withdrawals from subnational governments, was recently invigorated with the accession of Ontario, Canada’s most populous province. Regardless of what the White House does, Americans of the states are taking advantage of their country’s unique federalist system to perpetuate the progressive provisions of the Paris Agreement.
Furthermore, American cities are rising to the occasion and committing to the maintenance of emissions reduction targets that were delegated in Paris. More than 380 mayors of US cities—New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, and Seattle, among others—have amplified their climate crusades. As representatives of almost 70 million Americans, these mayors are earnestly and voluntarily placing the onus upon themselves to validate the ameliorative actions of the UNFCCC on America’s behalf despite the lack of a compassionate federal government. Mayors across the country, long before June 1, 2017, have been promoting and mandating green technologies, green architecture, and green cityscapes with innovative and oft-imperfect but pioneering implements that lower their cities’ carbon footprints, which makes the redoubling efforts of many cities in recent months particularly applaudable. Notably, Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago will convene a “Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy North American Climate Summit” in December 2017 that brings together mayors of the NAFTA countries as well as leading C40 mayors worldwide. With their steadfastness, American mayors are constructing a bulwark of audacity in the defense of our biosphere.
The citizens of the world must not dismiss the people of the United States as personae non gratae. That characterization should be limited to the anachronistic leader at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Courageous American elected officials at the state and municipal levels are stepping up to negate the regressive void that President Trump has fomented in contempt of the Paris Agreement. An assembly of mayors, governors, and concerned citizens of all creeds are determined to honor and perhaps exceed America’s commitments to climate change mitigation. Let us cheer them onward: they are the godsend of hope who will steer our planet from the climate abyss.
The author: Christian Omoruyi is a 16-year old student who attends Center Grove High School in Indianapolis, Indiana. A tireless youth leader and activist who has been awarded with numerous accolades, he is one of many Americans fighting for environmental sustainability and justice in the wake of a new national presidency harboring unprecedented disdain for environmental protection. A cosmopolitan teen, he is the president of his secondary school’s Model United Nations chapter and an intrepid world traveler who has traveled to fourteen countries. Christian hopes to join COY in Katowice next year and wishes the best for COY13 attendees in Bonn!