As U.S. President Trump breaks the U.S. commitment to the Paris Agreement On Climate Change, grassroots support is rising up.
Nearly 70 percent of Americans, including a majority of people in all 50 states, support the Paris Agreement on climate change. The global climate deal, struck in late 2015, was a historic moment. Trump’s declaration to join Nicaragua and Syria outside the largely symbolic deal is also historic.
The United States Climate Alliance will carry the flag for America in Trump’s absence. The Alliance is a bipartisan group of states in the United States that are committed to upholding the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change within their borders, by achieving the U.S. goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions 26–28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025 and meeting or exceeding the targets of the federal Clean Power Plan.
With input from all participants, the U.S. Climate Alliance will act as a forum to sustain and strengthen existing climate programs, promote the sharing of information and best practices, and implement new programs to reduce carbon emissions from all sectors of the economy.
“Those of us who understand science and feel the urgency of protecting our children’s air and water are as united as ever in confronting one of the greatest challenges of our lifetime,” Gov. Jay Inslee said. “Our collective efforts to act on climate will ensure we maintain the United State’s commitment to curb carbon pollution while advancing a clean energy economy that will bring good-paying jobs to America’s workers.”
The alliance was formed on June 1, 2017, in response to the announcement earlier that day by U.S. President Donald Trump that he had decided to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement. In response to President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Accord, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, and California Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. formed the Alliance to convene U.S. states committed to achieving the U.S. goal of reducing emissions 26-28 percent from 2005 levels and meeting or exceeding the targets of the federal Clean Power Plan.
The formation of the alliance was thereupon announced by three state governors: Jay Inslee of Washington, Andrew Cuomo of New York, and Jerry Brown of California.
A press statement released by Inslee states that “New York, California and Washington, representing over one-fifth of U.S. Gross Domestic Product, are committed to achieving the U.S. goal of reducing emissions 26–28 percent from 2005 levels and meeting or exceeding the targets of the federal Clean Power Plan.” These three states are governed by the Democratic Party, although both New York’s and California’s governorship will be on the ballot in the United States gubernatorial elections, 2018. By the evening of June 1 the state governors of seven other U.S. states had agreed to maintain their states’ support for the Paris Agreement.
On June 2, Governor Dan Malloy announced that Connecticut would join the United States Climate Alliance. On the same day, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker became the first Republican governor to bring his state into the alliance. Governor Phil Scott of Vermont, another Republican, said his state would join. Governor Gina Raimondo said Rhode Island would also join. Governor Kate Brown said that Oregon would join. Governor David Y. Ige of Hawaii announced that Hawaii would also join, making them the 9th state in the Alliance.
On June 5, Virginia Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe announced that Virginia would join the US Climate alliance. However, the Virginia Governorship is on the ballot in November of 2017. Governor Mark Dayton of Minnesota, Governor John C Carney Jr of Delaware, and Governor Ricky Roselló of Puerto Rico also joined the alliance.
The member states, which make up 31.4 percent of the U.S. population and 36.3 percent of U.S. GDP as of 2016, emitted 18.1 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions in 2014.
In addition, governors, mayors, businesses, investors, and colleges and universities from across the U.S. or with significant operations in the U.S said they would continue to uphold the tenets of the non-binding international agreement, according to a new consortium, We Are Still In.
Mayors, city councils, tribal groups and more progressive business leaders are responsibly stepping up to fill the leadership void. More than 1,000 state and city government officials and business and university leaders on Monday vowed to follow through on the goals outlined by the Paris climate change agreement, calling out President Donald Trump and his move last week to yank the U.S. from the landmark deal.
A coalition that includes nine U.S. states, more than 200 mayors and more than 20 Fortune 500 companies said in a so-called “letter to the international community” that it would work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Officially named We Are Still In the pledge has been signed by 1,370 businesses and investors (along with 9 states, 275 colleges and universities, and 178 cities and counties), and the list is still growing. Of the 1,370 businesses involved in We Are Still In, thirty-five of those are apparel brands like Under Armour, Nike, Adidas, Gap, Levi’s.
Indian tribes and indigenous organizations have pledged to honor the commitments of the Paris Climate Accord in the wake of Trump’s withdrawal, as have dozens of cities and states. Hawaii became the first state to pass laws supporting the agreement as Gov. David Ige signed two bills designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska’s (Tlingit & Haida) Executive Council issued a call to action to support the Paris Climate Change Accord. They were joined by three tribes, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and the Native American Rights Fund (NARF), among others.
“As Indigenous Peoples, we have a responsibility to protect traditional homelands which are inherently connected to our cultural languages and identities,” declared a statement issued by the Tlingit & Haida along with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the Quinault Indian Nation and the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community.
“Alaska tribal governments are living with the early but significant effects of climate change,” said council President Richard Peterson in the statement. “Our traditional knowledge learned over millennia within our aboriginal lands leaves us with no doubt that immediate action to reduce the impacts of climate change is our duty as sovereign indigenous governments. As such, we will seek to participate in the Paris Agreement.”
In response to the U.S. pullout, the indigenous leaders said they would “aggressively address climate change” in their respective homelands and communities. NCAI and NARF also said they “remain firmly committed to representing and advancing Indigenous Peoples’ interests in the ongoing process of implementing the Agreement.”
“We will work to ensure that all parties respect, promote, and consider Indigenous Peoples’ rights in all climate change actions, as is required by the Paris Agreement,” said NARF Executive Director John Echohawk in a statement.
Indigenous communities worldwide are at the forefront in feeling the effects of climate change. The Native Alaska village of Kivalina is nearly underwater, and in 2016 the Isle de Jean Charles Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw in Louisiana became the first official climate refugees when they were given $48 million by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to move inland.
The Quinault Indian Nation has seen the encroachment of the ocean on the Lower Village of Tahola, the tribe said in a statement, and glaciers on the Olympic Peninsula are melting.
Meanwhile, the case — Juliana v. United States — pits a group of youth climate plaintiffs against the federal government and the fossil fuel industry. The plaintiffs allege that the federal government, through its actions and coordination with the fossil fuel industry, have violated their constitutional right to a livable climate. It is the first climate lawsuit to rely on a version of the public trust doctrine — known as atmospheric trust — to make its case, and adds to a growing number of attempts to force climate action through the judicial branch.
The lawsuit was initially filed in August of 2015, against the Obama administration. The Obama administration, as well as three fossil fuel industry groups as intervenors, all filed motions to have the lawsuit dismissed, which was denied in November by U.S. Federal Judge Ann Aiken. In February, after President Donald Trump was sworn in, the youth plaintiffs filed notice with the court that they would be replacing Obama with Trump.
They will seek to prove that the United States government has taken action to harm their right to a livable climate. They will also argue that the government has failed to protect commonly held elements, like the atmosphere, in good condition for future generations — a legal doctrine known as the public trust. The plaintiffs will then ask for science-based climate action by the federal government.
“The more evidence we gather for our case, the more I realize how decisively we can win at trial,” Alex Loznak, a 20-year old youth plaintiff from Oregon, said in a statement. “It’s no wonder the Trump administration wants to avoid the trial by seeking an unwarranted, premature appeal. Today’s ruling brings us one step closer to trial and to winning our lawsuit.”