Colorado should honor Paris Accord principles
President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Accords on climate change is an abdication of any claim by the United States to leadership on clean energy and environmental protection.
As the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) charges, it is “an outrageous, absurdly reckless move that abdicates U.S. climate and clean energy leadership, makes us a pariah on the international stage and threatens our children’s future, all to bolster big polluter industry profits.”
Signed by 195 member nations in April 2016, the Paris Accord is a non-binding agreement to promote clean energy use, reduce greenhouse gasses, phase out use of fossil fuels, and limit the effects of climate change.
President Obama pledged to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 26 to 28 percent by 2025.
Now, with Trump’s withdrawal from the treaty, the United States, the Earth’s second largest polluter after China, joins Syria and Nicaragua as the only three nations not to have signed the climate pact.
(To their credit, Nicaragua rejected the Paris Accord because they believed it do not go far enough in protecting the environment from pollution.)
The strongest opposition to Trump’s rejection of the Paris Accord has emerged from local governments. Erin Skarda of 5280.com reports: “On Thursday, 86 mayors representing more than 40 million Americans nationwide, signed an agreement that promised to ‘adopt, honor, and uphold the commitments to the goals enshrined in the Paris Agreement.’ By Monday, June 5, that number had risen to 211 mayors, representing more than 54 million Americans.”
Nine mayors from Colorado — Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, Boulder Mayor Suzanne Jones, Lakewood Mayor Adam Paul, Aspen Mayor Steve Skadron, Longmont Mayor Dennis Coombs, Breckenridge Mayor Eric Mamula, Edgewater Mayor Kris Teegardin, Lafayette Mayor Christine Berg, and Vail Mayor Dave Chapin — all signed the pledge, which reads, in part:
“We will continue to lead. We are increasing investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency. We will buy and create more demand for electric cars and trucks. We will increase our efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, create a clean energy economy, and stand for environmental justice. And if the President wants to break the promises made to our allies enshrined in the historic Paris Agreement, we’ll build and strengthen relationships around the world to protect the planet from devastating climate risks.”
An organization called We Are Still In addressed an “Open letter to the international community and parties to the Paris Agreement from U. S state, local, and business leaders.” The letter is signed by mayors, governors, college and university leaders, businesses and investors that “are joining forces for the first time to declare that we will continue to support climate action to meet the Paris Agreement.”
Signers include “125 cities, nine states, 902 businesses and investors and 183 colleges and universities.”
The first global commitment to fight climate change, the open letter states, “succeeded where past attempts failed because it allowed each country to set its own emission reduction targets and adopt its own strategies for reaching them. In addition, nations — inspired by the actions of local and regional governments, along with businesses — came to recognize that fighting climate change brings significant economic and public health benefits.”
Though not listed among the signers of the open letter, global engineering giant CH2M based in Douglas County issued a statement in support of the Paris Agreement. “CH2M leads in the delivery of sustainable solutions for infrastructure and industry by implementing innovative and resilient projects that not only reduce carbon impacts, but also achieve sustained social, economic and environmental benefits,” CH2M Chairman and CEO Jacqueline Hinman said in the statement. “We stand with our clients today by reaffirming our longstanding commitment to advance the aims of the Paris climate accord.”
With no leadership at the federal level, it now falls to the states and private sector to provide vision and leadership. As Pete Maysmith of Conservation Colorado observes, “The power and leadership on clean energy and climate change now shifts to states, cities and the private sector. Whatever Governor Hickenlooper, mayors, county commissioners, and other leaders across our state had been planning to do on climate change — they must now do twice as much. The time for bold action is now.”