The momentum of climate change efforts and the affordability of cleaner fuels will keep the United States moving toward its goals of cutting emissions despite the Trump administration's withdrawal from the Paris global accord, business and government leaders in a growing alliance said.
New York, California and 11 other states representing nearly 40 percent of the U.S. economy, mayors of about 200 cities, and leaders of business giants including Amazon, Apple and Target have signed pledges to keep reducing their fossil-fuel emissions after President Donald Trump announced he would withdraw the U.S. from the 2015 Paris climate accord.
“Our coalition wants to let the world know that absent leadership from our federal government,” the country will keep cutting its emissions from fossil fuels, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown told reporters Tuesday.
California, New York, Virginia, Connecticut, North Carolina, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Washington state, Vermont, Massachusetts, Delaware, Oregon and Washington, D.C., have signed pledges. The states, most led by Democrats, represent $7 trillion of the U.S. gross domestic product, or 38 percent.
Texas absent from alliance
Texas, the largest producer of climate-changing carbon dioxide in the U.S. and the biggest state economy after California, is a key figure absent from the list. More than two dozen other states, mostly in the country's middle, already had been fighting stepped-up federal emissions-cutting programs before Trump's announcement.
Top Texas leaders have had little public comment on the withdrawal from the global accord, although the state's attorney general praised the move.
New York and California are the only states in the country's top 10 list of carbon emitters to sign pledges.
Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupsi, who joined former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's “We Are Still In” campaign, along with mayors of Houston, Atlanta and hundreds of other local leaders, cited the economics for her state: Utah has a $1 billion skiing industry threatened by climate change and marked 65 percent growth last year alone in solar power, as one of the country's sunniest states.
“Utah is warming at twice the global average, and our drinking water is at risk,” said Biskupsi, saying she was acting “for the well-being of the planet I'm leaving to my sons and your children.”
Court battles ahead
Undoing most existing U.S. programs that curb car pollution and other climate-changing emissions would probably take years and court battles if Trump tries, climate experts say. A few efforts, such as a reduction on methane emissions introduced by the Obama administration, could be overturned more easily.
The momentum of existing climate-change efforts and the availability natural gas, wind and solar power mean those loyal to the Paris accord in the U.S. will have an easier time, with emissions expected to fall overall for years, said Robert Perciasepe with the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, who worked with Bloomberg's group on the climate pledge.
Some studies suggest the United States will cut emissions as much as 19 percent by 2025 if it simply moves forward as is, he said. That's not far from former President Barack Obama's goals for a reduction of 25 to 28 percent as part of the Paris accord, Perciasepe said.
Interest leads to website
Since Thursday, commitments from cities, universities and businesses were happening so fast that organizers had to set up a website where they could sign up automatically, Perciasepe said.
The support from local governments, public institutions and businesses show that climate change efforts are getting something they have long lacked in the U.S. — vocal and enthusiastic support, said William K. Reilly, a former chief of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, who is not involved in the alliances.
“It does perhaps reflect an increasing activism on the part of the public at large” on climate change, Reilly said. “Trump can take some perverse credit for that.”