On 1 June 2017, President Trump announced that his administration planned to formally withdraw from the Paris Agreement, a 2015 accord between 195 countries that enacted nation-specific policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In that announcement, Trump said that the United States would “begin negotiations to re-enter either the Paris accord or an entirely new transaction on terms that are fair to the United States”.
Abroad, the announcement was met with widespread international condemnation. France, Italy and Germany issued what Reuters described as a “rare” joint statement clarifying that the Agreement could not and would not be renegotiated.
In a statement tweeted by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, Trump responded that he aimed to put the United States’ interests above global ones (or, at least, French ones):
I was elected by voters of Pittsburgh, not Paris. I promised I wld exit or renegotiate any deal which fails to serve US interests.
That statement lead the mayor of Pittsburgh, Bill Peduto (who was literally elected by the voters of Pittsburgh), to tweet:
As the Mayor of Pittsburgh, I can assure you that we will follow the guidelines of the Paris Agreement for our people, our economy & future.
Peduto is not the only mayor of a major American city to commit to the terms of the Paris Agreement in spite of American withdrawal from the pact. The Mayors’ National Climate Action Agenda, an initiative intended to “combat climate change and prepare for global warming” founded by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, former Houston Mayor Annise Parker, and former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, released a statement in response to Trump’s decision, signed by 68 American mayors:
As 68 Mayors representing 38 million Americans, we will adopt, honor, and uphold the commitments to the goals enshrined in the Paris Agreement. We will intensify efforts to meet each of our cities’ current climate goals, push for new action to meet the 1.5 degrees Celsius target, and work together to create a 21st century clean energy economy.
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.
The world cannot wait — and neither will we.
Mayors around the country echoed this statement in press releases, tweets, and interviews:
Withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement isn’t just a setback, it’s irresponsible. This damages our nation’s reputation as an international leader and puts future generations at risk to the threat of climate change. Boston will not standby given what’s at stake. We are committed to addressing climate change head on and will accelerate Boston’s efforts to become carbon neutral by 2050.
— Boston Mayor Marty Walsh
On behalf of New York City, I will commit to honor the goals of the Paris agreement with an Executive Order in the coming days.
— New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio
We must not let the President’s decision today slow our efforts. As the energy capital of the world and the nation’s largest municipal purchaser of green power, Houston is leading by example and living proof that large, industrial cities can have a robust economy and also fight climate change.
— Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner
I’m proud to join @usmayors and leaders across the world in honoring #ParisAgreement goals in Reno. #ActOnClimate
— Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve
With the President pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement, L.A. will lead by committing to the goals of the accord — and will work closely with cities across America and the world to do the same.
— Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti
While the statement that the these cities would “sign on” to or “uphold” the Agreement is more symbolic than legal, the effects of a large number of American cities enacting policies and programs in the spirit of the Agreement could be significant.
According to a report released by C40 Cities, a climate-focused coalition of 90 of the world’s largest cities (including 12 American metropolises), cities offer a great deal of potential in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions globally:
As its contribution to the Paris Agreement, the U.S. committed to reduce economy-wide GHG emissions by 19-21% below 2015 levels by 2025. If all U.S. cities with populations over 50,000 followed the ambitions of C40 cities, however, they could collectively deliver emissions reductions equivalent to 28% of city emissions, representing 36% of the total necessary to hit the U.S. target by 2025.
The ability for American cities undertake measures aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions is unique compared to other countries, the report argues:
The U.S. federal system endows cities with greater powers than many cities elsewhere in the world. The system allows state and city governments to set policy and targets, design laws and standards, implement financial mechanisms to develop and support markets (e.g. green bonds), and enforce regulatory compliance. These are key levers through which climate actions can be – and are already being – delivered, and through which a thriving low-carbon goods and services sector is being developed.