I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.” That, President Donald Trump said, was chief among his reasons for withdrawing the US from the Paris climate agreement.
It seems Pittsburghers did not get the message. “Pittsburgh stands with the world,” Bill Peduto, the city’s mayor, tweeted in response. “I can assure you that we will follow the guidelines of the Paris agreement for our people, our economy and future.
Cities and states across the US have seized upon Pittsburgh’s example, announcing their intention to pick up the federal government’s slack on countering climate change. California, New York, Washington and nine other states - which together account for over a third of the country’s GDP - have stated their commitment to cutting emissions by 26-28% from 2005 levels, as agreed by President Barack Obama under the Paris agreement.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is leading cities in a parallel effort, which has already enlisted 150 members. Speaking on Friday, Mayor Garcetti stated that 70-80% of the work on reducing emissions is done at the local level, including renewable energy mandates set by utility commissions, efficiency rules for household appliances and fuel mileage standards.
“In the absence of climate leadership at the federal level, we’re seeing governors of some of our largest states demonstrating leadership on climate,” Michael Mann, a leading atmospheric scientist at Pennsylvania State University, told The World Weekly. “We will need to rely on leadership at the state, city, and municipal level as we await leadership at the national level."
States and cities hold immense economic clout. Taken alone, California would be the world’s fourth largest economy, and LA its 17th. Since Mr. Trump’s announcement, California’s government has reached an agreement with China to cooperate on clean energy development and “climate-positive” trade and investment opportunities.
Public opinion is firmly behind such endeavours. Seven in ten reportedly support staying in the Paris agreement, while a Reuters/Ipsos poll released this week showed that 68% of Americans believe the US should take “aggressive action” to fight climate change. That did not stop Mr. Trump staging a “Pittsburgh, not Paris” rally in Washington on June 3, to celebrate his decision to withdraw. Its size perhaps reflects the popularity of Mr. Trump’s choice: around 200 people reportedly turned up.