After Trump’s decision, cities and states vow to step up
President Trump’s long-anticipated decision Thursday to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord stirred vows of resistance and pledges from cities, states, and regional groups to comply with the goals of the historic agreement on their own.
Abandoning the landmark agreement is likely to have far-reaching consequences, ranging from more planet-warming emissions of carbon to the loss of US leadership on environmental issues. But throughout New England and other liberal redoubts around the country, anger was mixed with a sense of resolve.
On Twitter, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh wrote that despite Trump’s pledge to pull out of the agreement, signed by 195 nations, “Boston will do no such thing.”
In a statement, Walsh joined more than 50 other mayors in calling on cities to adopt the Paris agreement through local resolutions and by coordinating their environmental policies.
“We will adopt, honor, and uphold the commitments to the goals enshrined in the Paris agreement,” wrote the mayors, who panned Trump’s decision as “irresponsible and dangerous.”
“If the president wants to break the promises made to our allies . . . we’ll build and strengthen relationships around the world to protect the planet from devastating climate risks.”
In his announcement from the Rose Garden, Trump said, “‘I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.’’ He added that the accord saddled the United States with “draconian” financial burdens.
But his critics said that while federal policies are vital to curbing emissions, market forces, as well as state and local policies, can play a major role in maintaining progress on climate change.
They note that much of the decline in emissions over the past decade in the United States is the result of cheap natural gas displacing coal. In the Northeast, where states have joined together in a compact called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), power-plant emissions have fallen 45 percent since 2008.
“There is much that can be done by states, cities, and businesses to compensate and get the US at least in striking distance of meeting its Paris agreement pledge,” said Ken Kimmell, a former commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Protection who’s now president of the Cambridge-based Union of Concerned Scientists.
For example, states, which control electricity, have the authority to accelerate their transition to renewable energy, he said.
States like California have already exerted their influence on the rest of the country through programs that require vehicles sold there to comply with strict fuel standards. Others, like Massachusetts, have laws that require officials to cut emissions 25 percent from 1990 levels by 2020 — and 80 percent below those levels by 2050.
“States will, and should, push back, as they have in the past,” said Ian Bowles, energy and environmental affairs secretary during the Deval Patrick administration. “Now will be the time for governors to double down on clean energy, in defiance of national abdication.”
Nearly 30 states already require utilities to use a certain amount of renewable energy, he said.
“They will get stronger, not weaker, in the face of this shortsighted decision,” he said.
Governor Charlie Baker, who has been criticized by environmental advocates for his policies, had urged Trump to remain in the Paris accord, and said he was disappointed by the decision.
He pledged the state would continue “aggressively working to exceed the goals of the Paris agreement on the state level, while growing our economy through clean energy innovation and environmental stewardship.”
“The commonwealth is committed to working with our partners around the nation and world to reduce carbon emissions,” Baker said in a statement. “In Massachusetts and around the world, climate change is a shared reality and our ability to rise and respond to this challenge will shape future generations.”
The critics noted that an RGGI report last year said that the nine states in that regional pact had reduced emissions by 16 percent more than other states, while the region’s economy grew 3.6 percent more than in the rest of the country. At the same time, energy prices fell an average of 3.4 percent, while electricity rates in other states rose 7.2 percent.
The president’s decision, which was criticized around the world, was also denounced by companies in the United States.
Many of them also pledged to help honor the nation’s commitments in Paris.
Jeffrey Immelt, chief executive of General Electric Co., was among the Boston-area business leaders angered by the decision.
“Climate change is real,” he posted on Twitter. “Industry must now lead and not depend on government.”
James E. Rooney, president of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, called the withdrawal an “unfortunate decision.”
“I am pleased to see . . . our city and state leadership has made it clear that they will continue their commitment to combat climate change,” he said in a statement.
Scott Pruitt, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, congratulated Trump but hinted at a potential path for the United States to continue cutting carbon emissions and meet the agreement’s commitments.
Pruitt noted that the United States had already made significant cuts in carbon emissions before president Barack Obama signed on to the accord in 2015. The country had cut its carbon emissions 12 percent below 2005 levels by 2015; under the Paris agreement, it vowed to reduce emissions 26 to 28 percent by 2025.
Since the Industrial Revolution, the United States has emitted more of the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming than any other country. In 2015, the nation was responsible for 15 percent of the globe’s carbon emissions, more than any other country but China.
Because of that, officials worldwide have argued the United States has a special responsibility to comply with the Paris accord, which seeks to prevent the planet from warming more than 3.6 degrees above the global average temperatures that existed before the Industrial Revolution.
Global average temperatures have already increased about 1.8 degrees since that time.
Scientists have warned the planet will suffer a range of dangerous consequences if temperatures aren’t kept below those agreed to in Paris, including more-powerful storms, major coastal flooding, prolonged heat waves, and increased droughts.
Kimmell and other environmental advocates also questioned the president’s assertions that the climate accord would hurt the US economy.
“There is no sugarcoating this — this is one of the most reckless and irresponsible decisions ever made by a United States president, and today will go down as a day of infamy,” he said.