President Donald Trump announced on Thursday that the US would exit the Paris Agreement on climate change. Questions of how international treaties work aside, the actions of people on the ground in the US might circumvent the Trump announcement – causing the US to lower greenhouse-gas emissions to the goals set by the Paris Agreement anyway, despite the actions of the president.
Governors of some of the largest states in the country are already taking action.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, Gov. Jerry Brown of California, and Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington announced the formation of the United States Climate Alliance after the announcement, saying they would convene states committed to upholding the Paris Agreement and reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.
“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 backseat to other countries in the global fight against climate change,” Cuomo said in a statement emailed to Business Insider. “New York State is committed to meeting the standards set forth in the Paris Accord regardless of Washington’s irresponsible actions. We will not ignore the science and reality of climate change which is why I am also signing an Executive Order confirming New York’s leadership role in protecting our citizens, our environment, and our planet.”
Brown was just as direct on a call with reporters organized by the World Resources Institute.
“This is an insane move by this president – the world depends on a sustainable future,” Brown said. “It’s tragic, but out of that tragedy I believe the rest of the world will mobilize, will galvanize our efforts.”
As Christiana Figueres, the former executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change – who led the talks that created the Paris Agreement in December 2015 – said on that same call, it was always people in states, cities, and companies who would be working to cut emissions. Now, they might be doing the same – just without the mandate from the federal government.
“I think they will do so with much more enthusiasm after today,” Figueres said.
As the World Resources Institute has pointed out, if the US states that support the Paris Agreement were counted as a country, they’d be the fifth-largest economy and sixth-largest greenhouse-gas emitter in the world – meaning action by those states is significant enough to have an impact.
It’s not just states getting involved. Mayors of more than 85 cities across the US signed a letter on Thursday announcing a commitment to reduce emissions and push clean energy. As Business Insider’s Dana Varinsky previously reported, some experts believe it’s possible that cities alone can ensure the US meets climate goals.
“In the US, cities and surrounding areas are responsible for the majority of greenhouse gas emissions, since they have the largest populations, heaviest industry and highest volume of cars,” she wrote. “Because of that, they are in a position to make a big impact.”
Numerous corporations are also on board. Executives from companies including Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Morgan Stanley signed a letter urging Trump to stay in the Paris Agreement before the announcement.
Now it’s a question of how many will go their own way to achieve the Paris goals, with or without the administration.