The Trump Administration’s abandonment of the Paris Climate Agreement has raised all five stages of grief—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. But now is the time for everyone to move beyond acceptance to a renewed commitment to action.
There is no sugar-coating it that President Donald Trump’s decision to abandon the U.S. commitments to the world as part of the Paris Agreement made no sense strategically or economically or environmentally. There is little to be gained by rehashing all that has been written about the downside of the decision: loss of international prestige and leadership, estrangement of America’s best allies, dramatically increasing risk that the world will be unable to limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius.
National media headlines following the President’s speech on this issue called for “a serious fact check”; an inventory of “19 false things”; nine times Trump showed “he doesn’t understand” the agreement; and even nine examples of “Trump’s climate lies,” including the whopper that exiting the Paris agreement would bring back coal jobs. Coal’s decline will continue to be driven by low natural gas prices, falling wind and solar prices, as well as flat or even declining demand due to deployment of energy efficient lighting and other technologies.
One remarkable outcome of Trump’s speech was that there was more press coverage of climate impacts and climate solutions and options for reducing emissions in June of 2017 than in all of 2015 and 2016 combined. Voices as diverse as Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s Michael Liebreich, the United Nation’s Christine Figuera, and former deputy director of Greenpeace Ken Ward immediately claimed that the primary result of the President ditching the Paris deal will be a doubling down of climate action by other countries, U.S. states, cities, and private and public companies.
This has turned out to be very prescient, as Michael Bloomberg himself flew to France the very next day and promised President Macron that “Americans don’t need Washington to meet our Paris commitment, and Americans are not going to let Washington stand in the way of fulfilling it.”
Since then, over 10 states, 200 cities, 1,500 private companies and 500 universities and institutions of higher learning have all stepped up, pledging We Are Still In. Tools are being assembled to “roll up” and properly account for carbon pollution reductions from American companies and local governments. Governor Jerry Brown of California will serve as special envoy to states at the next United Nations Climate Change Conference, further elevating the role of states at the international dialogue as President Trump abdicates the U.S. government’s role.
In Minnesota, Governor Mark Dayton joined the new U.S. Climate Alliance along with the other governors, declaring, “President Trump’s withdrawal will cause serious damage to our environment and our economy. Nevertheless, Minnesota and other states will show the world what we can achieve by working together to conserve energy, to use cleaner and renewable energy, and to leave a livable planet to our children and grandchildren.”
Minnesota companies and businesses are also providing leadership at this crucial time. The Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition represents more than 20 of Minnesota’s largest employers, such as 3M, Cargill, Ecolab, Best Buy, Andersen Corporation, and Target, and they are working together on options to procure all of their electricity from emission-free sources. Xcel Energy is also stepping up.
Many Minnesota cities are making commitments and plans for climate action. For example, Saint Paul has pledged to be carbon neutral by 2030, and Duluth, Elk River, Morris, Rochester and Warren have joined the University of Minnesota to participate in Climate Smart Municipalities, a new international ideas and technology exchange program that is part of the German government’s Transatlantik-Programm, honoring the legacy of the originator of the United States and Germany’s close relationship via the Marshall Plan.
Minnesota has become a national leader on energy, thanks to policies and decision leaders committed to moving away from fossil fuels and spurring a now booming wind and solar market. We’ve cut carbon dioxide while growing jobs and the economy. At a time when our most prominent business and local leaders are ready to expand that leadership even further, Fresh Energy will continue to shape policies that spur greater investment in clean energy.
Fresh Energy recognizes that our readers are concerned about federal actions and their impacts on Minnesota. We will provide regular insights on key issues—and what we can and must do at the state and regional level to continue the transition to a clean energy economy.