Hours after President Trump announced last year that the United States would exit the Paris climate deal, a broad group of governors, mayors and business executives declared that they would uphold the agreement anyway and continue tackling global warming on their own.
It was a striking move for a coalition of local leaders: Making a case to the rest of the world that they, and not the president, spoke for the nation on climate policy.
To date, however, that groundswell hasn’t been nearly enough to counteract the effects of the Trump administration’s retreat on climate policy. Now, as many of those same local leaders and executives gather for a high-level conference in San Francisco this week, the group they created finds itself at a critical juncture, the moment when it shows whether or not it can rise to the task.
“Yeah, there’s pressure” said Gov. Jerry Brown of California, one of the most visible faces of the movement, known as “We Are Still In.” State and local leaders “are carrying the flag while the big powers, the national guys, are rather somnolent.”
The gathering in San Francisco, which is spearheaded by Governor Brown, will bring leaders and civil society groups from around the world to discuss ways that states, cities and businesses can work together to reduce their emissions.
The stakes are high. So far, 2018 is on track to be the fourth-hottest year on record worldwide. Deadly heat waves scorched all corners of the globe this summer and huge wildfires set California ablaze. Scientists are warning that countries have delayed so long in cutting emissions that many long-predicted disruptions from global warming are now unavoidable.
Against that backdrop, the Trump administration has been pushing to roll back many of the most prominent federal climate policies. Overseas, most national governments are falling far short of their promises to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
“We’re seeing signs of increasing apathy worldwide,” said Paul Bledsoe, a White House climate adviser under former President Bill Clinton. “And a lot of people are hoping that what’s happening in places like California could be the antidote.”
A big test of that antidote will be whether America’s states, cities and companies put forward meaningful new steps to cut emissions — and whether that, in turn, helps to persuade local leaders in other countries to ratchet up their own efforts on climate change. [Continue reading…]