Well, it happened.
You’ve probably heard the news by now, but in case you haven’t, President Donald Trump announced earlier today that he is pulling the US from the Paris Climate Agreement.
In the coming weeks, the EcoNetwork will continue to report on what the consequences of this decision could be for Austin, the US, and the world. Our radio partner Shades of Green will also be dedicating an entire hour-long show to the topic later this month.
But, in the meantime, here’s what we know now.
What is the Paris Climate Agreement again?
The Paris Climate Agreement is the world’s first real global accord on climate change. It was agreed upon in Paris at the end of 2015 (under the Obama administration) and includes individual emission reductions pledges from nearly every country in the world. Under the agreement, the US pledged to cut its greenhouse gas emissions 26 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.
Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement means that there are only three countries in the world that have chosen not to participate – Syria, Nicaragua, and the US.
Why did Trump decide to withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement?
If you remember, Trump vowed to “cancel” the agreement while he was still campaigning for president and this week he made good on that promise. At a press conference in the Rose Garden on Thursday, Trump said that complying with the Paris Agreement would threaten American jobs and hurt industries like coal, natural gas, and steel. He called the Paris Agreement a “self-inflicted major economic wound” and a “redistribution of United States wealth to other countries.”
“It is time to put Youngstown, Ohio; Detroit, Michigan; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, along with many, many other locations within our great country before Paris, France,” Trump said. “It is time to make America great again.”
What are people saying in the US?
After hearing Trump’s speech and its reference to putting Pittsburgh first, the city’s mayor tweeted, “As the Mayor of Pittsburgh, I can assure you that we will follow the guidelines of the Paris Agreement for our people, our economy & future.”
Of course, not all of our country’s politicians agreed with the Mayor of Pittsburgh. In a Facebook post, Texas Senator Ted Cruz wrote that, “I commend President Donald J. Trump for putting American jobs first. This is great news for the Texas economy and for hardworking Americans all across our country.”
As the New York Times reports, many major businesses also condemned Trump’s decision, including IBM and General Electric. Elon Musk (CEO of Tesla and SpaceX) announced that he would be leaving Trump’s advisory councils in response to the decision. Even Exxon Mobil has voiced its support for staying in the agreement.
Over the past few weeks, an ad was run in major newspapers throughout the country featuring a letter urging Trump to remain in the Paris Climate Agreement. That letter was signed by Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Morgan Stanley, Mars Incorporated, Levi Strauss & Co, and many more companies. The letter said that continued participation in the agreement would increase American economic competitiveness, create jobs, and reduce business risks.
“As businesses concerned with the well-being of our customers, our investors, our communities, and our suppliers, we are strengthening our climate resilience, and we are investing in innovative technologies that can help achieve a clean energy transition,” explained the letter signatories. “For this transition to succeed, however, governments must lead as well.” You can read the entire letter here>>
What are people saying around the world?
President Trump’s decision was not well-received by most in the global community. Together, European Union leaders and China vowed to continue pressing for the goals laid out in the Paris Agreement despite America’s absence.
What are people saying in Austin?
Ever since Trump was elected, Austin Mayor Steve Adler has always said that Austin will continue to fight climate change with or without the federal government’s help. In a Facebook post from earlier this week, Adler wrote that, “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.”
Adler also joined together with 61 other mayors representing 36 million Americans in writing a letter condemning Trump’s decision.
“The President’s denial of global warming is getting a cold reception from America’s cities,” wrote the mayors. “The world cannot wait — and neither will we.”
Luke Metzger, director of the local environmental advocacy organization Environment Texas, echoed this sentiment, writing in a press release that, “President Trump has got it exactly backwards: there’s no sound economy in our future without a healthy planet. If national leadership chooses to ignore that reality, then local governments, businesses and institutions must step in to fill the leadership void to show the world that Americans will do our part to address the climate crisis.
Averting disaster would be easier with strong federal leadership, but it’s not too late to defend clean air and a livable climate. If President Trump won’t stick by the U.S. commitment to reduce pollution, then our states, cities and industries must do so.”
The Sierra Club is also circulating a petition speaking out against President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, with the purpose of collecting contact information for anyone who wants to be involved in a their movement to act on climate change and create a more just future for all Texans. You can learn more here.