American leaders pledged their allegiance to the Paris climate accord Saturday, pummeling President Donald Trump’s promised retreat from the global coalition as a temporary diversion that won’t impede their progress toward keeping global temperatures below catastrophic levels.
“It is important for the world to know the American government may have pulled out of the Paris agreement, but the American people are committed to its goals and there is nothing Washington can do to stop it,” Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York, said at a launch for America’s Pledge in Bonn, where talks are continuing at the 23rd “conference of the parties,” or COP 23.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts said while Trump wants to “cop out” on climate action, “we know that C.O.P. really stands for ‘can’t obstruct progress, that climate outlasts presidents.’ That’s what C.O.P. stands for.
“President Trump has called global warming a ‘hoax,’ he has assembled a cabinet of Big Oil all-stars, fear is rampant across the federal government in terms of the scientists who work there every day, but on our side we have 100 years of science and nearly 100 percent of the scientists on the planet.”
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They spoke as representatives of nearly 200 signatories to the 2015 agreement gathered for the United Nations conference, where the Trump administration was set to hold a presentation Monday promoting coal, natural gas and nuclear energy.
American officials criticized the move as backward. They pointed to statistics showing the U.S. reduced its emissions more than any other large country even as the federal government remained on the sidelines for much of that time. Indeed, Congress did not pass any comprehensive legislation mandating carbon emission cuts as former President Barack Obama’s clean power plan was tied up in courts and never implemented.
Bloomberg noted that the U.S. was already halfway to its Paris goal of reducing emissions by 26 percent to 28 percent by 2025.
“Our progress has not been driven by top-down federal mandates,” Bloomberg said.
The independence masked a reality, however, that even the local coalition had to acknowledge in its report: Committed non-federal efforts are not sufficient to meet America’s emissions reduction commitment under the Paris agreement.
“Over the next year, the America’s Pledge initiative will analyze the potential range of incremental, not yet committed actions by states, cities, and businesses, and compare that potential against this 26-28 percent short-term goal for 2025,” the report states. “But we cannot underscore strongly enough the critical nature of federal engagement to achieve the deep decarbonization goals the U.S. must undertake after 2025.”
Trump promised to withdraw from the agreement, contending that it doesn’t serve American energy and security interests: “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” he said.
Because the pact does not allow the U.S. to pull out until 2020 at the earliest, the conference has spurred an awkward dance between the Trump administration, Americans supportive of climate action and leaders across the world who are looking to U.S. sub-national actors like California to help carry the climate baton.
Bloomberg and billionaire climate activist Tom Steyer helped cover more than $200,000 in costs for a U.S. climate pavilion showcasing the action of states and regions as well as their commitment to upholding the Paris accord after the Trump administration refused to foot the bill.
“This is a pledge, and it’s a pledge that you cash because it’s real. We’re doing real stuff in California,” Gov. Jerry Brown said. “When cities and states combine together, and then join with powerful corporation, that’s how we get stuff done.”
As hecklers interrupted his speech, Brown led some in the crowd to a chant of “Trump is still out,” later calling him the “poster boy for climate denialists.”
Christopher Cadelago: @ccadelago