President Trump has announced that the U.S. will be withdrawing from the Paris accord — the historic global agreement reached by 195 countries in 2015 to set targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and limiting the rise in average global temperatures.
This administration has done plenty of awful things, but this move is a kind of nexus of everything that came before — disdainful of hard-won international cooperation, short-sighted even from a purely business-oriented perspective, deliberately ignorant of scientific consensus, and likely to visit its greatest harms on the poorest people on the planet. The Paris Agreement was, to some extent, a symbol — the Trump Administration was already merrily gutting the infrastructure of environmental protection before today, and formal withdrawal could take almost four years to complete — but the announcement makes crystal clear that the U.S. Federal Government is abdicating any role it could have in facing the global threat that defines our generation.
Even without Federal leadership, though, we have options at the local level. Because today’s announcement was hardly a surprise, some of them are already set to go. The states of Washington, California, and New York, which together account for about a fifth of the U.S. population and GDP have announced an alliance to coordinate carbon emissions reductions without D.C., with the explicit goal of meeting the Paris commitments. The new organization is billed as an extension of the Under2 Coalition, an international coalition of cities, states, and other “sub-national” governments that signed a memo of understanding for joint action on carbon emissions starting in 2015. A number of other states’ governors pledged independent action in anticipation of Thursday’s announcement — so one thing you can do today is call up your governor’s office and your state representatives to ask, why isn’t my state in the U.S. Climate Alliance already?