President Donald Trump may have withdrawn the United States from the Paris climate accord, but cities around the world are showing that his decision has only motivated local efforts to combat climate change.
Mayors from over 7,400 cities worldwide, 130 of them in the U.S., have formed a "global covenant of mayors" vowing to uphold former President Barack Obama's commitments made in the climate agreement two years ago.
The covenant's board of directors met for the first time on Tuesday in Brussels to discuss ways to reduce carbon emissions and foster a greener community on a more localized level. The Guardian reported that cities are working together to create a standard of measurement with which to monitor their emission reductions, and their governments plan to share innovations on carbon-free housing and public transportation.
For mayors from the U.S. who joined the covenant, this project takes on an even more personal note, as they hope that their participation sends a strong message to their president. Mayor Kassim Reed of Atlanta told reporters that he wants this meeting and whatever grows from it to show Trump and his administration that the fight for Earth will go on with or without them.
"Right now you have a level of collaboration and focus and sharing of best practices that I haven’t seen. I came from Brussels from a meeting of the U.S. conference of mayors ... and more than 300 mayors signed a letter reflecting our will to deliver the Paris accord commitments," he explained. “My firm belief is that President Trump’s disappointing decision to withdraw from the agreement will actually have the opposite effect in terms of execution."
Reed has promised to have Atlanta running on 100 percent renewable energy by 2035, but he noted that he is representative of only one city wanting to do its part for the world. According to the mayor, 75 percent of America's population and gross domestic product lies in densely populated urban areas, and leaders in those communities want to take action in spite of Trump.
"We have the ability to still achieve between 35 percent and 45 percent CO2 emission reductions without the involvement of the national government,” Reed said.
If Reed and his constituents are successful, their efforts will be of no small importance. The U.S. is responsible for emitting more greenhouse gases than any other country on the planet, with the exception of China. Reducing the nation's carbon footprint would have a massive impact on the rate of global warming.
American billionaire, politician, and philanthropist Michael Bloomberg serves as co-chair of the board of directors. His investment of $200 million in U.S. cities that show commitment to reversing global warming is a motivator for the summit in Brussels. In a speech to the European parliament on Tuesday, he made it abundantly clear that the world can, and will, make incredible progress in spite of the White House.
“It’s important for you, and the world, to understand that the fate of America’s Paris pledge does not lie with Congress or the White House," he explained. "Few people realize it, but the U.S. is already halfway to our goal of a 26 percent reduction in emissions by 2025 – and Washington has had almost nothing to do with that progress. Cities, states, businesses, and citizens, together with the market, were responsible for it.”
To have the Trump administration involved would certainly make the fight against climate change easier, but global community leaders showed us Tuesday that they're not going to waste time getting hung up about that.
The world has work to do.