American Climate Resilience in the Age of Trump
Climate change remains a deeply divisive issue in American political life, and not all Americans are standing by as the country withdraws from the Paris agreement. Even before Trump’s announcement, local administrators were already engaged in displays of climate resilience: Mayor Bill De Blasio declared that New York would have honored the commitments of COP 21. Former Vice President Al Gore stepped in and defined Trump’s decision “reckless and indefensible”, Bernie Sanders slammed it as “an abdication of American leadership and an international disgrace” while Silicon Valley enterpreneur Elon Musk tweeted “Am departing presidential councils. Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world”. De Blasio denounced Trump’s move at a press conference two days ago in Red Hook, a neighbourhood devastated by Hurricane Sandy.
“We saw this community disrupted so tremendously by something that was directly affected by climate change,” De Blasio noted.
“There’s no question about it. Hurricane Sandy, Nor’easter—all that occurred in that super storm—was because of climate change. We’ve already borne the brunt here in New York City. It’s only going got get worse if something is not done quickly to reverse the course the earth is on.”
Then, De Blasio announced a plan for an executive order that will “honor the goals of the Paris agreement”. Even NY Public Advocate Letitia James and Comptroller Scott Stringer have condemned the Trump administration’s decision.
Recent studies conducted by New York University have led to the redrawing of the current flood maps, to better prepare the city for the changes it will fase as the Earth warms. The redrawing is illustrated in a new interactive map. Moreover on May 17, New York State Governor Andew Cuomo launched the Methane Reduction Plan, which includes 25 initiatives to reduce government emissions in the following areas: landfill, oil & gas and agriculture. The implementation is scheduled for this year, up to 2020. Governor Cuomo in the evening has also announced the formation of the United States Climate Alliance with California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. and Washington State Governor Jay R. Inslee. He declared in a statement that:
“The White House’s reckless decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement has devastating repercussions not only for the United States, but for our planet. This administration is abdicating its leadership and taking a back seat to other countries in the global fight against climate change”
But this, as we shall see later, was just the beginning of the immediate administrative reaction to Trump’s move. In fact, in the United States, environmental resilience has been a staple of opposition to the new government. One such example was California, which opposed the abolition of Obama’s emission limits.
In September 2016 Governor Jerry Brown signed a historic piece of legislation, setting one of the most aspiring carbon reduction goals in the world. The bill required that California reduce carbon emissions to at least 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. California’s climate resilience continues today. After Trump’s announcement, Mayor Ed Lee wrote:
“In the absence of federal leadership, San Francisco will continue to take aggressive measures on climate change. […] Our city is proof that strong action on climate change is good for the planet and good for business.”
San Francisco has already reduced citywide emissions by 28 percent since 1990 while its population has grown by 19 percent. As result its local economy has increased by 78 percent. Mayor ended: “San Francisco is committed to working with cities, regions, states, institutions and businesses both nationally and internationally in the fight against climate change. The rest of the world’s countries have signaled they are committed to the Paris Agreement and so is San Francisco.”
Even LA Mayor Eric Garcetti promised to adhere to the Paris climate agreement. “This is an urgent challenge, and it’s much bigger than one person … LA will lead by committing to the goals of the accord—and will work closely with cities across America and the world to do the same,” said in a statement. He is also supporting a motion introduced by Mike Bonin, to the City Energy and Environment Committee for adopting the commitments of the Paris accord as city policy. Los Angeles has already established the goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 45 percent below 1990 levels by 2025. Garcetti’s office has affirmed that the resilience city plan is on track to create 20,000 green jobs and provide power to more than 12,000 homes with solar energy.
Finally, state Governor Jerry Brown told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday that California would do “everything it can to not only stay the course, but to build more support in other states, in other provinces, in other countries.”
In 2014 it was reported that Chicago buildings caused 71 percent of the city’s greenhouse emissions. The local administration had already declared in April 2017 that it “will clean up its buildings” and Mayor Rahm Emanuel had announced the city plan transition to power all municipal buildings with 100 percent renewable energy by 2025. Chicago will be the largest US city to complete this transition. The Mayor stated in that occasion that “As the Trump administration pulls back on building a clean energy economy, Chicago is doubling down”. And even in anticipation of the announcement of Trump’s decision, Emanuel ruled that: “We cannot afford to ignore the consensus of 194 countries and the entire scientific community […] Reneging on the Paris Agreement is shortsighted and does not make climate change any less real” and after the White House statement said:
“Chicago has proven [that] you can create jobs while reducing your carbon footprint, and we will continue to do both […] The world is depending on cities in the US to take up the mantle of leadership on climate change. Chicago will happily accept that challenge.”
A GREAT AMERICAN ALLIANCE
American climate resilience isn’t limited to NY, California and Illinois. Austin Mayor Steve Adler confirmed the city’s commitment in a statement:
“Austin will not stop fighting climate change. Worldwide, cities will lead in achieving climate treaty goals because so much of what’s required happens at the local level. Regardless of what happens around us, we’re still Austin, Texas.”
The Mayor of Philadelphia, Jim Kenney, also chipped in:
“President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement goes against the interests of Philadelphians. My administration is now committed to upholding at the local level the very same commitment made by the United States in the Paris climate agreement — to reduce carbon emissions between 26 and 28 percent by 2025. This will ensure that we’re well on our way to meeting Philadelphia’s current long-term goal of reducing the city’s emissions 80 percent by 2050.”
Some mayors from the Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative have reiterated their commitments on climate action in a letter.
The most important news arrived in the evening: the creation of an American network of Climate Mayors.
“As 82 Mayors representing 39 million Americans, we will adopt, honor, and uphold the commitments to the goals enshrined in the Paris Agreement. We will intensify efforts to meet each of our cities’ current climate goals, push for new action to meet the 1.5 degrees Celsius target, and work together to create a 21st century clean energy economy.
We will continue to lead. We are increasing investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency. We will buy and create more demand for electric cars and trucks. We will increase our efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, create a clean energy economy, and stand for environmental justice. And if the President wants to break the promises made to our allies enshrined in the historic Paris Agreement, we’ll build and strengthen relationships around the world to protect the planet from devastating climate risks.
The world cannot wait — and neither will we.”
Houston, Oakland, Minneapolis, Seattle, Ann Arbor, Orlando and many other cities gathered together under the auspicious of the Paris agreements and the number is growing. You can find all the details here.
As Europeans our place absolutely can’t be anywhere else than with you, our American brothers and sisters. We are ready to face future challenges with the same resilience that does you honor in this hour.
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