Leaders of California, Washington and other states said Thursday they will work to fill the international leadership vacuum created by President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate change agreement.
Even before Trump was elected, California Gov. Jerry Brown had joined with other states and governments in Europe, Canada and China to pursue reductions in greenhouse gas emissions greater than those called for in the Paris pact. On Friday, Brown departs on a previously planned trip to China, where he intends to further engage his Chinese counterparts on technology sharing and processes for reducing emissions.
Compared to the federal government, U.S. states have limited ability to implement and enforce international agreements, including the Paris pact, which is aimed at preventing the planet from warming 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. But with the world’s sixth largest economy and a thriving tech sector, California hopes to hold together some of the international alliances now frayed by Trump’s decision.
“California will resist this misguided and insane course of action,” Brown said in a statement after the president’s announcement. “Trump is AWOL but California is on the field, ready for battle.”
Trump is AWOL but California is on the field, ready for battle
California Gov. Jerry Brown
Speaking from the White House Rose Garden on Thursday, Trump said he decided to withdraw from the Paris pact because it was unfair to U.S. businesses and workers. He said he would seek to renegotiate the agreement – signed by more than 190 countries – in terms that would better benefit U.S. workers.
“We’re getting out but we will start to negotiate and we will see if we can make a deal that’s fair,” he said.
Brown quickly challenged Trump’s claims, stating in a call to reporters that California’s economy has grown even as the state has implemented a cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gases and tougher vehicle emissions standards. “Trump is saying this is bad for jobs. It is good for jobs – the jobs of the future,” Brown said.
Along with the German state of Baden-Wurttemberg, California in 2015 helped organize the Under2 Coalition, made up of state and local governments worldwide that have committed to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions 80 to 95 percent by 2050. By contrast, the United States committed to reduce emissions only up to 28 percent by 2025 under the Paris agreement.
More than 170 governments on six continents have since joined the coalition, including the states of Washington, Oregon, Vermont, Rhode Island, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota and New Hampshire. Altogether, the coalition claims to represent more than 1.18 billion people and $27.5 trillion in Gross Domestic Product, or 37 percent of the world’s economy.
Many in the coalition are concerned about how the effects of climate change, including rising seas, could affect their coastal cities, agriculture and ecosystems. But some are also home to internationally focused clean-tech industries, which stand to gain if foreign countries increase their investment in renewable power and energy conservation.
In a statement Thursday, former President Barack Obama suggested that California and like-minded states could benefit from an agreement that Trump has now rejected.
“The nations that remain in the Paris Agreement will be the nations that reap the benefits in jobs and industries created,” Obama said. “Even as this administration joins a small handful of nations that reject the future, I’m confident that our states, cities, and businesses will step up and do even more to lead the way.”
In Washington state, Gov. Jay Inslee called Trump’s decision a “shameful course of action” and vowed the state would continue to take action to reduce carbon emissions.
“We have implemented a cap on carbon pollution, and we will continue working with businesses and research institutions to develop and deploy 21st century clean energy solutions,” Inslee said in a statement.
Democratic governors aren’t the only politicians vowing to counter Trump’s Paris pact decision. Some 61 U.S. mayors have vowed to uphold the commitments of the international agreement. On Capitol Hill, Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a Miami Republican, said a group of congressional Republicans and Democrats, largely from coastal states, will redouble its efforts to find ways to reduce the risks of climate change.
“Momentum is on our side,” said Curbelo, co-chair of the Climate Solutions Caucus, which has grown to 40 members in a year. “This is an issue that most Americans are concerned about and they’re going to be expecting thoughtful solutions.”
In his trip to China Friday, Brown will attend an international climate conference and also seek to encourage more Chinese provinces and cities to join the Under2 Coalition. Sichuan and Jiangsu became the first Chinese provinces to join the coalition in 2015, and 23 more provinces and cities have since become signatories.
“It is a little bold to talk about the China-California partnership as though we were a separate nation, but we are a separate nation,” Brown said Wednesday in an interview with The Sacramento Bee.
McClatchy’s Lesley Clark contributed to this report.