By David R. Baker
Moving quickly to fill a climate leadership vacuum opened by President Trump, the governors of California, New York and Washington on Thursday announced a new alliance of states dedicated to fighting global warming and urged others to join them.
The move came within hours of Trump's statement that he will pull the United States out of the landmark 2015 Paris climate accord and seek to renegotiate it, casting it as a threat to American jobs.
An angry California Gov. Jerry Brown called Trump's decision "tragic" and "insane," pointing out that his state's economic growth has surged even as it boosts its use of renewable power and ratchets down greenhouse-gas emissions.
"California will resist," Brown told journalists on a conference call. "Trump may well create the exact opposite of what he intended, which is an aroused citizenry -- and an aroused international community -- who will not tolerate this kind of deviant behavior from the highest office in the land."
Brown and his counterparts, Jay Inslee of Washington and Andrew Cuomo of New York, announced that they would join forces in a United States Climate Alliance, a coalition of states committed to upholding the goals of the Paris agreement.
The three states, combined, represent more than 20 percent of the U.S. population and at least 10 percent of the country's greenhouse-gas emissions, according to the governors.
"I am proud to stand with other governors as we make sure that the inaction in D.C. is met by an equal force of action from the states," Inslee said in a news release. "Today's announcement by the president leaves the full responsibility of climate action on states and cities throughout our nation."
Meanwhile, 27 California state senators, led by President Pro Tem Kevin De León, sent Brown a letter Thursday urging him to convene a climate summit with representatives of Mexico, Canada and other states and subnational governments.
The summit, they wrote, would help "ensure that we continue to charge ahead without forfeiting all of our historic progress to date."
Brown has, for years, worked to form partnerships with other states, countries and provinces on climate policies, with mixed results. California's cap-and-trade system for reining in greenhouse-gas emissions, for example, also includes Quebec and may soon add Ontario. But when the system was still under development in 2008, it was supposed to cover seven states and four provinces. Most dropped out over the years.
Since Trump's election last fall, Brown has dramatically ramped up his efforts, positioning California as both the focal point of resistance to Trump's environmental policies and the country's leading force for climate action.
He has also emerged as a persistent environmental diplomat. Brown has badgered foreign officials to join his Under2 Coalition, a group of national and subnational governments dedicated to keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius in this century. The coalition now boasts more than 170 jurisdictions worldwide, with Canada, Mexico and Sweden among the newest members.
Indeed, the timing of Trump's long-awaited announcement on the Paris accord may have played into Brown's hands. The governor is scheduled to fly to China on Friday to discuss the state's ongoing collaboration with that nation on climate and energy issues. He will then travel to Bonn, Germany, to attend the 2017 United Nations Climate Change Conference.
California's climate policies are considered the nation's most aggressive, and could get tougher. The state Senate, for example, approved a bill Wednesday that would force California utilities to get 100 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2045.
Other states have set their own targets, leading some analysts to hope that the country will continue to make progress in the coming years, despite Trump's determination to undo former President Barack Obama's federal climate policies.
"Thankfully, most of the decisions that really matter in this country happen at other levels," said Andrew Steer, president of the World Resources Institute think tank.
(c)2017 the San Francisco Chronicle