From Paris to the Rocky Mountains
At the G20 summit in Europe, President Trump figuratively sulked in a corner while all nineteen other nations (including Saudi Arabia and, ahem, Russia) reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris climate agreement. Not one to mince words, German chancellor Angela Merkel said she “deplored” the U.S. exit from the agreement.
But has the U.S. really left? Donald Trump and his designated environmental saboteurs like Scott Pruitt and Rick Perry would like to think so. This week, though, brought more proof that the real United States of America isn’t ready to abandon the historic goals agreed to in Paris.
On Monday, Denver mayor Michael Hancock used his State of the City address to lay out a bold vision for powering his city with 100 percent clean, renewable energy like wind and solar, adding that “If Washington won’t stand by the Clean Power Plan or Paris Climate Accord, we will.” Denver is the 19th-most-populous city in the U.S., as well as the fastest growing major city. Once the the mayor’s comment becomes a firm commitment, Denver will be the 37th U.S. city to commit to transition entirely to clean and renewable energy. What’s great about Mayor Hancock’s vision is that it looks toward a future that embraces not only clean power but also clean transportation that would benefit all of the city’s residents.
Then, on Tuesday, Colorado governor John Hickenlooper, a former mayor of Denver, issued an executive order committing the state to tracking greenhouse gas emissions with a goal of cutting them by 26 percent from 2005 levels by 2025. If that sounds familiar, it’s because those are also the goals set by the Paris agreement. Colorado will take action, said Governor Hickenlooper, “regardless of what the federal government decides to do.”
That Colorado will track its emissions is important, because accountability is the key to reaching any long-term goal. An important feature of the Paris agreement was that it required nations to report on their progress. Which brings me to Wednesday’s big news. Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and California governor Jerry Brown announced that the climate-action coalition of American states, cities, and businesses that formed in response to Trump’s rejection of the Paris climate agreement has a new name (America’s Pledge) and a new commitment: tracking and quantifying the progress of its members (227 cities and counties, nine states and more than 1,600 businesses and investors) toward meeting those same Paris climate goals.
The transition to renewable energy — which is inseparable from meaningful climate action — has always been about opportunity. Donald Trump can squander that opportunity, but he can’t eliminate it, nor can he stop others from seizing it. That’s exactly what happened in Colorado this week. (And for that, kudos to the awesome activists in the Sierra Club’s Rocky Mountain Chapter, who do an amazing job of making the case for clean energy in a state that’s under constant pressure from fossil fuel developers.)
On Thursday, even the Republican-controlled House of Representatives briefly broke from the Trump administration’s purblind climate stance when it voted against a bill amendment that would have barred the Department of Defense from analyzing and addressing climate change. Forty-six Republican representatives joined their Democratic colleagues to defeat the amendment, including almost all of the members of the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus.
The big message this week: The United States will continue to move forward on climate action and clean energy no matter what the Trump administration does. It will happen in our cities. It will happen in our states. And, on really good days, it will even happen in Washington, D.C.