The rather encouraging news is that many US cities and even entire states are bypassing Trump and committing themselves to the Paris Agreement anyway, and declaring “We are still in”. This is all rendering his declaration of US withdrawal as utterly irrelevant. The New York Times has some details …
Representatives of American cities, states and companies are preparing to submit a plan to the United Nations pledging to meet the United States’ greenhouse gas emissions targets under the Paris climate accord, despite President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the agreement.
The unnamed group — which, so far, includes 30 mayors, three governors, more than 80 university presidents and more than 100 businesses — is negotiating with the United Nations to have its submission accepted alongside contributions to the Paris climate deal by other nations.
“We’re going to do everything America would have done if it had stayed committed,” Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor who is coordinating the effort, said in an interview.
Can they operate on the international stage?
Sure they can, and that is being demonstrated by Gov Jerry Brown of California. This happened last Tuesday …
Chinese president Xi Jinping does not make it a habit of meeting with state-level American politicians, but on Tuesday Jinping sat down with California governor Jerry Brown, to talk about climate change. The meeting between the president and the governor was all over Chinese state-run news, and looked every bit like a meeting between heads of state. Under normal circumstances, Xi would be talking climate change with US president Donald Trump, or at least with US energy secretary Rick Perry—who was at the same energy conference as Brown and Xi, but reportedly did not meet with Xi. But these are not normal circumstances.
Welcome to the US’s new shadow government on climate change.
But how is any of this possible?
The Paris Agreement is a treaty between nation states, and so does not exist to serve corporations, cities, or states directly .. right?
True to some degree, but that is not the entire scope of it.
The Paris Agreement is all about nations each agreeing to a nationally determined contribution (NDC) of the amount of CO2 that they will reduce emissions by. Beyond that it also has a way for sub-national groups such as companies, cities or states to make a pledge as well. This all happens via the United Nation’s Non-State Actor Zone for Climate Action (NAZCA) portal. In the context of international law any non-state actor participating is not a legal party to the Paris Agreement, but is in effect participating in that agreement in the same way.
NAZCA was created back in 2014. It was crafted as a political tool to build momentum and support for the adoption of a universal climate agreement at COP21. When the Paris Agreement was finalised they included this because the nations signing the Paris Agreement welcomed the efforts of these actors who were willing to help by publicly making such a commitment. The thinking was that the inclusion of NAZCA as part of the Paris Agreement would create on-going momentum that so encourage the nations signing the treaty to not only meet their agreed obligations, but to strive to exceed them.
In other words, NAZCA still has a role to play. In the context of the new US administration, it has also now become a rather important platform for the numerous US cities and states that do not support the Trump decision.
Who Exactly signs up on NAZCA and how extensive is this?
Here is a wholly random selection of some recent commitments that have been formally registered on NAZCA …
If you are wondering where things currently stand, then here is the precise number of commitments they have registered (as I write this) …
We Are Still In
Dear Secretary-General Guterres and Executive Secretary Espinosa,
I am submitting the attached statement from U.S. subnational and non-state actors to affirm and demonstrate Americans’ collective commitment to the Paris Agreement and to supporting climate action to meet the nationally determined contribution made by the United States under that accord.
The bulk of the decisions which drive U.S. climate action in the aggregate are made by cities, states, businesses, and civil society. The federal role, ideally, is to coordinate and support those efforts. In the absence of a supportive federal coordinating role, these actors will more closely coordinate their own decarbonization actions. Collectively, they will redouble their efforts to ensure that the U.S. achieves the carbon emissions reductions it pledged under the Paris Agreement.
Since 2007, when economy-wide emissions peaked, the United States has been reducing its emissions at a rate which, if sustained through 2025, would achieve almost the full amount of our Paris commitment. That rate of progress, which has been driven not by Washington policies but by actions taken by cities, states, businesses, and civil society, has been accelerating for the past three years. We do not intend to slow down. Indeed, we are confident that emissions reductions in the United States will accelerate over the coming years as a result of the growing ambition for climate action by cities, states, businesses, and others. These groups recognize not just the urgency of the climate change threat, but the enormous economic opportunity presented by climate change action.
In my capacity as the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change, I plan to work with U.S. subnational and non-state actors over the coming months to follow-up on this submission with a more specific quantification of these aggregate actions. This quantification, which will constitute “America’s Pledge” to the world, will reflect our collective resolve to combat climate change and fulfill our responsibility to help lead the world in reducing emissions. And, as the Global Covenant of Mayors has already done for its activities, I will support the necessary initiatives to make the American contribution to the Paris Agreement transparent and accountable.
It is my hope that the UNFCCC, on behalf of the Parties to the Paris Agreement, will accept and acknowledge America’s Pledge as a parallel submission alongside any future submission provided to you by the current executive branch of the U.S. federal government. That branch can, and will, speak to its own willingness to move forward on climate action in the United States. It cannot, however, determine the pace of progress achieved by U.S. cities, states, the private sector, and civil society. That freedom to lead is part-and-parcel of our federal system – and in combatting climate change, we will capitalize on it to the fullest extent.
What is the “Attached Statement” that he makes reference to?
It is this …
Open letter to the international community and parties to the Paris Agreement from U.S. state, local, and business leaders
We, the undersigned mayors, governors, college and university leaders, businesses, and investors are joining forces for the first time to declare that we will continue to support climate action to meet the Paris Agreement.
In December 2015 in Paris, world leaders signed the first global commitment to fight climate change. The landmark agreement succeeded where past attempts failed because it allowed each country to set its own emission reduction targets and adopt its own strategies for reaching them. In addition, nations – inspired by the actions of local and regional governments, along with businesses – came to recognize that fighting climate change brings significant economic and public health benefits.
The Trump administration’s announcement undermines a key pillar in the fight against climate change and damages the world’s ability to avoid the most dangerous and costly effects of climate change. Importantly, it is also out of step with what is happening in the United States.
In the U.S., it is local and state governments, along with businesses, that are primarily responsible for the dramatic decrease in greenhouse gas emissions in recent years. Actions by each group will multiply and accelerate in the years ahead, no matter what policies Washington may adopt.
In the absence of leadership from Washington, states, cities, colleges and universities, businesses and investors, representing a sizeable percentage of the U.S. economy will pursue ambitious climate goals, working together to take forceful action and to ensure that the U.S. remains a global leader in reducing emissions.
It is imperative that the world know that in the U.S., the actors that will provide the leadership necessary to meet our Paris commitment are found in city halls, state capitals, colleges and universities, investors and businesses. Together, we will remain actively engaged with the international community as part of the global effort to hold warming to well below 2℃ and to accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy that will benefit our security, prosperity, and health.
What you will also find attached to that letter are a vast number of cities, institutions, businesses, and also many states.
So far these nine …
- State of California
- State of Connecticut
- State of North Carolina
- State of Oregon
- State of New York
- State of Rhode Island
- Commonwealth of Virginia
- State of Washington
- State of Hawaii
Only nine feels small, but having California, Oregon, and Washington State on board is not exactly tiny; that is the entire west coast of the US.
I can’t even begin to list the cities, businesses and institutions that has signed up, it is far too extensive a list to place here. The press release dated 5th June explains that …
Leaders in U.S. Economy Say “We Are Still In’ on Paris Climate Agreement
Climate Declaration Represents 120 Million Americans and $6.2 Trillion of the U.S. Economy
Washington DC – A grand total of 1,219 governors, mayors, businesses, investors, and colleges and universities from across the U.S. or with significant operations in the U.S., representing the broadest cross section of the American economy yet assembled in pursuit of climate action, today declared their intent to continue to ensure the U.S. remains a global leader in reducing carbon emissions.
How well received is this?
One word … “very”.
Ms. Figueres, the executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change until last year, said the Bloomberg group’s submission could be included in future reports the United Nations compiled on the progress made by the signatories of the Paris deal.
Seriously, the scope here is vast …
“We remain steadfastly committed to the sustainability, carbon and energy goals that we have set as a company and to the Paris Agreement’s ultimate success. Our experience shows us that these investments and innovations are good for our planet, our company, our customers and the economy.” – Brad Smith, President and Chief Legal Officer, Microsoft
“The coalition harnesses the power of scientific research and political and corporate leadership to make good on America’s promise to the world. Collectively we have resolved to meet or exceed our Paris Agreement commitments.” – Dorothy Leland, Chancellor, UC-Merced
“Climate change is a fact of life that people in Los Angeles and cities around the world live with every day. It is a grave threat to our health, our environment, and our economy — an urgent challenge that requires unprecedented collaboration. The President may be pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement, but L.A. will lead by committing to the goals of the accord — and working closely with over 200 other Climate Mayors as well as governors and CEOs across the U.S. to do the same.” – Eric Garcetti, Mayor of Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California
“As the first state in the Trump era to take executive action to limit carbon emissions and create clean energy jobs, Virginia is proud to join this alliance of states, cities and businesses. President Trump’s announcement to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement does not speak for the states and cities that are committed to fighting climate change and paving the way for a new energy economy. If the federal government insists on abdicating leadership on this issue, it will be up to the American people to step forward — and in Virginia we are doing just that.” – Terry McAuliffe, Governor, Commonwealth of Virginia
“Collective action is a powerful force that will ensure the U.S. remains on track to meet and hopefully exceed the goals of the Paris Agreement. Lyft is proud to be part of this coalition and will be taking additional actions in the months and years ahead to ensure we do our part in addressing one of the greatest challenges of our time.” – John Zimmer, CEO, Lyft
“UConn is deeply committed to supporting environmental health and sustainability in any way we can. The decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement does not mean that we as a university should abdicate our own responsibility to do what we believe is best for our state, the nation, and the world with respect to our environment. We will steadfastly continue to do our part in contributing to global efforts to address climate change.” – Susan Herbst, President, University of Connecticut
“Seagate will continue to support the ideas and principles outlined in the Paris Agreement. A global response to climate change is required, as inaction will be clearly detrimental to humanity and all living species. We will not abdicate our responsibility to lead in this important effort.” – Steve Luczo, Chairman & CEO, Seagate Technology
“Climate change does not need a passport. This is a global issue that needs a global solution. Investors support the Paris Agreement because it makes financial sense. Because we’re a global investor, we’re looking at this not just in the United States but in a whole wide range of markets internationally.” – Anne Simpson, Investment Director, Sustainability, CalPERS
“It is very regrettable that the US has decided to withdraw from the Paris Climate Treaty. In our opinion, we should not waste the opportunity to future-proof our economies and companies. We can’t pass on the bill to next generations. Therefore, DSM remains committed to climate action.” – Feike Sijbesma, CEO, Royal DSM
“We have been operating on 100 percent renewable energy since 1999, and will remain committed to climate-smart policies in our business and to adopting new and exciting innovations. This is not only good for the planet—it’s good for business. We hope our leaders and fellow businesses will join us in looking ahead and championing the reality that there is no conflict between economic growth and environmental stewardship.” – Josh Prigge, Director of Regenerative Development, Fetzer Vineyards
“The loud voice of business and investment – even as the President makes this historic mistake – has been an inspiration. The U.S. economy is an incredibly powerful engine for growth and prosperity and a wide variety of companies and investors have made it clear that even though the President is relinquishing America’s leadership, we will take up the challenge.” – Jonas Kron, Director of Shareholder Advocacy, Trillium Asset Management
“We strongly disagree with the decision to exit the Paris Climate Agreement and remain committed to running a carbon neutral business and working toward a clean energy economy. We are proud to stand with millions of Americans, US companies, and city and state leaders who are in support of climate action.” – Kevin Cleary, CEO, Clif Bar & Company
“Gap Inc. believes that action on climate change is not an option, it’s an imperative. This is an issue that impacts all of us, and our company was an early and emphatic supporter of the Paris climate agreement. We’re proud to join this group of innovative leaders from cities, states, businesses, and civil society across the US in a commitment to taking action and doing the right thing for our planet and our people.” – Art Peck, President and CEO, Gap Inc.
“Climate change is one of the most important issues of our time. I believe we are faced today with a choice – we either act responsibly and move to address the damage we’ve done to our planet, or we act irresponsibly by failing to ensure a climate-resilient future. At Levi Strauss & Co., we will choose responsibility, and I hope that other business leaders will stand with us. Our future depends on it.” – Chip Bergh, President and CEO, Levi Strauss & Co.
“Aspen Skiing Company isn’t just opposing withdrawal from Paris. We’re going to fight it to the ground, and we’re going to implement the Paris accords ourselves, in our business, in Colorado, and as soon as possible, nationally.” – Auden Schendler, Vice President, Sustainability, Aspen Skiing Company
“Aveda joins many other businesses, local government and academic leaders in continuing to support climate action to meet the Paris Agreement. Aveda remains committed to our longstanding efforts to fight climate change. We will continue to purchase renewable energy and carbon offsets for our manufacturing and other North American operations while striving to be more energy efficient, work with suppliers to reduce the carbon footprint of our supply chain, work with NGO partners and other business to advocate for urgently needed policies, and educate the professionals in our retail, salon and spa network and their guests on actions they can take to make a difference.” – Aveda
“Now that Fortune 500 companies are including climate disclosure in their 10-K reports, we have good data indicating the business risks and upside associated with climate are material to shareholders. More than $4 trillion in assets are at risk due to climate change, $60 billion in energy is wasted in US businesses alone, and there’s a $5.5 trillion market for low-carbon goods and services. We are ready to capitalize on this business opportunity, creating both jobs and profit for shareholders. At Autodesk, we are all in, and are more committed than ever to enlist our customers to design, build and manufacture net positive climate solutions.” – Lynelle Cameron, VP of Sustainability for Autodesk and CEO of the Autodesk Foundation, Autodesk
“Mars stands by the Paris Climate Agreement. We remain committed to work with all governments and our supply chain partners around the world to achieve the carbon reduction targets the planet needs.” – Grant Reid, CEO and Office of the President, Mars
“Man-made climate change is real, the science is incontrovertible, and the threat to our planet is undeniable. We cannot walk away from our obligations and pretend that reality doesn’t exist. We’re going to fight back, lead by example, and work towards a sustainable future in every capacity we can. If the White House works to turn back the clock on the environment, cities like New York will continue to stand up and protect it. That’s why I’m proud to join with hundreds of elected officials, educators, and business leaders in declaring that we’ll uphold the Paris Agreement.” – Scott Stringer, NYC Comptroller
“I have seen firsthand how other countries look to the United States as the most important leader in addressing climate change and the resulting impacts. It is my hope that cities and states will continue to lead this work. The decision of the Trump Administration to pull support of the Paris Agreement is a blow to future generations and the global efforts and commitments that have been made to save our planet.” – Frank Cownie, Mayor of Des Moines, Des Moines, Iowa
“The President’s decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement does nothing but motivate us even more to make responsible decisions on behalf of our planet. Columbia is still committed to finding innovative solutions for renewable energy and protecting the natural resources that we already have. As one of dozens of Mayors for 100% Clean Energy, I know we have the leadership and innovation to ensure our country does not lag behind in the midst of an incredibly important issue.” – Steve Benjamin, Mayor of Columbia, Columbia, South Carolina
“We are deeply disappointed by the recent shift in climate policy. NIKE believes that climate change is a serious global threat and that the world will need to radically redesign industrial systems and economies in order to enable a low-carbon growth economy. We will continue to honor our commitments on climate, including reaching 100% renewable energy in all NIKE owned or operated facilities around the world by 2025, participating in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge and advancing materials innovation globally.” – Hannah Jones, VP, Innovation Accelerator and Chief Sustainability Officer, NIKE, Inc.
“I am deeply disappointed by our nation’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement. I find energy in the growing list of companies willing to voice their passion, commitment and resolve around our shared social and environmental responsibility. This is an important step for each of us to declare who we are and what we believe in. For us, being a triple bottom line business means putting a stake in the ground around purpose and practices. Across all industries, the time for change is now.” – Eileen Fisher, Founder and Chairwoman, EILEEN FISHER, Inc.
“State attorneys general are on the front lines fighting to protect our residents, the global community, and future generations from the dangers of climate change. We have long led efforts to promote clean energy and clean energy jobs in our states, advance smart policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and defend the progress we’ve made to address this threat. On behalf of our communities, our businesses, and our residents, the state attorneys general are proud to join this national alliance in support of achieving American commitments to the Paris Agreement.” – Maura Healey, Attorney General, Commonwealth of Massachusetts
One Last Thought
Trump might indeed have acted on behalf of the US at a federal level, but that is not an end-game move. At a state level, at an industrial level, and also at an academic level, the momentum now continues in a manner that is sufficient to render Trump’s Paris Agreement melodrama irrelevant.