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Horowitz: As Trump Abdicates Climate Leadership, Governors, Mayors & Business Leaders Step-up

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

 

Rob Horowitz

Led by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and big state Governors Jerry Brown and Andrew Cuomo, state and local elected officials and business leaders are not only saying a resounding ‘No” to President Trump’s ill-advised and short-sighted announcement last week that he is planning to withdraw the United States from the landmark Global Climate Change Agreement negotiated by President Obama and finalized in Paris: together, this critical mass of Americans with the power to continue the sound investments in renewable energy and energy conservation that have put us on the right climate path are going to make sure that the United States still meets the emission reduction goals to which it committed.

Bloomberg proclaimed soon after Trump’s announcement, “Mayors, governors, and business leaders from both political parties are signing [on to] a statement of support that we will submit to the U.N"and together, we will reach the emission reduction goals the U.S. made in Paris in 2015." Bloomberg  also stepped into the funding void created by Trump reneging on US funding commitments,  pledging an initial $15 million from is foundation to “support the operations of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.  The business leader and former Mayor said, “Americans will honor and fulfill the Paris Agreement by leading from the bottom up – and there isn’t anything Washington can do to stop us.”

Governor Jerry Brown  sounded a similar note in an interview with the Los Angeles Times: “Trump’s going against science. He's  going against reality. We can't stand by and give aid and comfort to that." In what can only be described as fortunate timing, Brown was about to leave for China to continue lending a helping hand to that nation’s leaders on their  proactive efforts to reduce emissions and get their air pollution problem under control. California is providing technical assistance on China’s new cap and trade program, among other forms of advice and hands-on help.

Commenting on Brown’s trip, David Victor, professor of international relations at UC-San Diego said, "We traditionally point to Washington as propagating foreign policy. But when Washington leaves the scene on important topics like climate change, others fill in” He added, “California gains a much more central role in shaping the U.S. relationship with the rest of the world."

These bold claims by Bloomberg, Brown and others that we will be able to meet our Paris commitments without the federal government’s support are more than just wishful thinking. Alternative energy is rapidly gaining market share because the price is precipitously declining.  Trump can’t change this basic economic fact. Further, cities and business play an out-sized role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and it is in their self-interest to continue to do so. Both these entities save money through increasing energy efficiency and adopting effective low tech green technology. These positive changes are well-underway and achieving the bottom line results that means they will proceed. They also enhance the brands of products and the reputations of cities for the large number of environmentally conscious consumers and residents. These actives are beyond the purview of the federal government.

It would have certainly have been better if President Trump had made a different decision about Paris.  In the long-run, limiting global temperature increases to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, requires active United State’s leadership. Additionally, there are negative security, and diplomatic consequences, along with potentially long-term unfavorable economic outcomes to Trump’s action. But proactive and effective leadership by states, cities and businesses can and will go a long way to filling the void allowing us to keep our climate commitments. In this case, I must agree with conservatives that federalism is a beautiful thing.  

Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island.

 

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