June 05, 2017 Categories: Climate Change

We’ll Always Have Paris

NextGen Policy Center

by Dan Lashof

Bill McKibben has brilliantly explored the ramifications of President Trump’s stupid and reckless decision to pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord; Dave Roberts has thoroughly demolished the deceptive claims Trump made in an attempt to justify his decision; and Michael Grunwald has offered a cogent explanation of why Trump actually pulled out of Paris. If you haven’t already read these excellent pieces you should–I’m not going to summarize them here. Instead I will focus here on the next set of questions: What do we do now? What should states, cities, businesses, and citizens do to mitigate the damage? How successful could these efforts be? How f**cked are we?

The silver lining in Trump’s Paris tempest has been the extraordinary outpouring of support for the goals of the Paris Agreement, which began before the official announcement and has continued to build since.

Prior to his decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, the Vatican, our closest allies in the G7, and over 1000 U.S. businesses appealed to President Trump to continue participating. In the aftermath, the rest of the world has strongly reaffirmed its commitment to the Paris Accord, including China, India, and the EU. Equally important, U.S. governors, mayors, and businesses have reaffirmed, and in many cases strengthened, their commitments to acting on climate consistent with the Paris goals.

These statements of intent are heartening and important. The task now is to turn them into concrete action.  Here is a short list of specific steps that states, cities, businesses, and citizens can take:

States should

  • Join the Under 2 Coalition of over 170 states, cities, and international provinces committed to the goals of the Paris agreement and the U.S. Climate Alliance.
  • Adopt or strengthen renewable energy standards leading to 100 percent clean energy by mid-Century.
  • Join California’s clean car standards and phase out polluting diesel and inefficient cars and trucks to transition our transportation fleet to clean electricity.
  • Establish comprehensive limits on global warming pollution and make polluters pay for the damage they do, like California’s Global Warming Solutions Act.

Cities should

  • Join the Under 2 Coalition and the 187 Climate Mayors committed to the goals of the Paris Agreement.
  • Invest in public transportation and practice transit-oriented development to make cities more attractive, more convenient and cleaner.
  • Establish energy-efficient building codes and upgrade schools, hospitals and other public buildings to be more comfortable, less costly, and cleaner.
  • Reduce, reuse, recycle, and compost to save valuable resources and reduce methane emissions from landfills.

Businesses should

  • Commit to 100 percent renewable energy for their operations.
  • Promote clean energy and transportation in their supply chains and for their employees.
  • Invest based on plans that are consistent with the Paris targets.
  • Advocate for policies that protect and strengthen America’s economic prosperity by leading the world in the transition to clean energy.

Citizens should

  • Speak truth to power. Protest, show up at town halls, call and write your Representatives to demand policies that benefit the public interest and protect public health, not Trump’s big polluter pals.
  • Run for office, start an organization, join an organization, stay informed, participate in and protect our democracy.
  • Vote as if the fate of the world depends on it, because it does.

The importance of the Paris Climate Conference was always much more than the formal agreement. The climate progress marked by the Paris accord rests on four pillars: national commitments, sub-national action, citizens and businesses, and the formal Paris Agreement itself. President Trump is undermining the national commitment made by the United States, but in so doing he has reinforced each pillar by strengthening everyone else’s resolve.

Paris may no longer have the United States government, but we will always have Paris.

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