On the sidelines of Donald Trump’s dangerous bluster at this week’s United Nations General Assembly, state governors like California’s Jerry Brown were in New York City, reassuring delegates from other countries and UN Secretary General António Guterres that some American governments are still intent on joining them in the fight against climate change.
“You have allies in the United States,” Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA) said he would emphasize over the next week. “You shouldn’t put your foot on the brake or even tap it just because we have a climate denier in the White House. You’re not alone.”
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The meetings mark “the first time governors have taken such a prominent role on climate change at the annual General Assembly,” the New York Times reports. “The goal, the governors say, is to assure other countries that they, along with hundreds of cities and businesses, remain committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions and meeting the goals of the Paris accord.”
Analysts see the sidebar conversations as “the first real test of whether governors can persuade world leaders that efforts by American states might be able to take the place, at least in part, of federal government action.”
On Sunday evening, California’s Brown met with UN delegates from Europe, Brazil, and small island states. On Monday, he saw Guterres. In conversation with the Times, Inslee rejected the idea the governors were setting themselves up as a shadow diplomatic corps.
“I don’t think it’s a shadow,” he said. “We’re in the sunlight. We’re shining the bright light of success.”
By contrast, after several days of confusion on whether the Trump administration was softening its views on the Paris agreement, a Monday morning breakfast session hosted by economic advisor Gary Cohn was the only meeting the White House scheduled on climate change. “That’s why we have governors here, because we don’t have someone from Washington, DC,” Brown said. “The states are picking up the baton.”
While analysts contacted by the Times questioned whether the U.S. can meet its greenhouse gas reduction target under the Paris agreement without federal government participation, Bloomberg reports that cities, states, and businesses have got the country half-way to there. “The push by public and private leaders from New York to California has put greenhouse gases on track to fall 12 to 14% below 2005 levels over the next eight years,” the news agency states, citing a study released Monday by NewClimate Institute and The Climate Group. The U.S. promised a 26 to 28% reduction in the lead up to the Paris conference in 2015.
“President Trump and all his tweets cannot stop our states from moving forward,” Inslee told opening ceremony participants at Climate Week NYC. “He cannot stop any of the things we are doing.”
“We are already finding our bills to be less than what we would pay with fossil fuels,” said Mars Inc. board member Stephen Badger, whose company recently committed $1 billion for climate action. The NewClimate Institute/Climate Group study identified private investment in U.S. solar and wind farms as a “key driver” of the country’s GHG reductions.
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