Local leaders react to Trump’s Paris Agreement withdrawal

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President Donald Trump announced his intent to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement on Thursday; city, state and university leaders have criticized the decision.

The Paris Agreement is a set of accords signed by 195 nations in an attempt to hold the increase in average global temperature below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Each participating country has pledged to set target levels for reducing emissions as part of the climate agreement.

Trump’s decision makes the United States one of three countries, along with Syria and Nicaragua, that have not made this voluntary pledge.

Some local leaders viewed Trump’s announcement, in which he said the Paris Agreement placed “draconian financial and economic burden” upon the United States, with concern. California State Sen. Nancy Skinner said Trump’s decision “defies logic” because the science on climate change is “undeniable.

“(Trump’s decision) hands global economic leadership and strength on these practices to China,” Skinner said. “Why would the United States do this? (The) United States is a leader in renewable energy and climate abatement technologies.”

Skinner, however, emphasized that national climate policy does not dictate state climate policy. She cited Gov. Jerry Brown’s work on state-level technical exchanges of climate science and technologies with China, Mexico and Germany, adding that she hopes these partnerships will continue and expand.

In response to Trump’s announcement, Gov. Brown, along with the governors of New York and Washington, announced the creation of the United States Climate Alliance in a press release Thursday. The Alliance is a coalition of states committed to upholding the Paris Agreement and “taking aggressive action on climate change,” according to the release.

Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín said he will introduce legislation for Berkeley to continue its commitment to the Paris Agreement, according to a statement issued by his office Thursday.

“Trump’s disastrous decision to back out of the Paris Accord will have devastating impacts,” Arreguin said in the statement. “While we had hoped that the federal government would show leadership in the face of this crisis, it now turns to us, local and state governments to take the lead.”

Emily Williams, spokesperson for Fossil Free UC, an organization which campaigns for university divestment from fossil fuels, said her outlook on Trump’s decision was mixed.

According to Williams, the United States was responsible for the Paris Agreement being a voluntary pledge rather than a legally binding treaty, because a legally binding treaty would likely not have passed through the then-Republican-controlled senate. Williams said the United States’s withdrawal from the agreement could leave room for the remaining countries to strengthen the agreement’s language.

UC President Janet Napolitano said she was “deeply disappointed” in Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement in a statement issued by her office Thursday. Napolitano reaffirmed the university’s commitment to becoming carbon neutral in its operations by 2025 in the statement, adding that university researchers will continue to study the climate and explore green technologies.

Ronald Amundson, a professor in UC Berkeley’s environmental science, policy and management department, said he would like to see the campus provide sufficient administrative and financial support to create a cohesive, mission-oriented program that addresses issues of climate change mitigation. Similar networks exist at Stanford and UCLA, but UC Berkeley may have greater expertise in these areas, according to Amundson.

Campus student leaders also voiced their support for addressing climate change. ASUC External Affairs Vice President Rigel Robinson said in an email it was “imperative that institutions like the UC lead the charge in setting the standard for sustainability.”

“Backing away from climate change is just dangerous. It’s an existential threat to the entire planet,” said Cal Berkeley Democrats President Caiden Nason. “Marginalized communities already feel the severe effects of climate change, so this is just going to hurt more marginalized people in the near future.”


Contact Rachael Cornejo at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @RachaelCornejo.