If Trump Pulls Out of Paris Climate Deal, California Governor Urges States to Act

by | June 1, 2017

By Melody Gutierrez

Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday called on states to forge an alliance to support the Paris climate deal following reports that President Trump plans to withdraw the United States from the landmark international accord.

Although individual states cannot sign the Paris agreement, Brown said state leaders should step up to demonstrate the nation's support if Trump pulls out of the coordinated response to global warming.

"This doesn't look so good," Brown told The Chronicle on Wednesday, just days before he heads to China to meet with climate leaders. "I can't believe that in the face of science, (Trump) can say black is white."

The California Democrat's reaction came hours after a White House official said the president is expected to pull out of the deal. The president later tweeted that he will announce his decision on the Paris accord during a Rose Garden event Thursday afternoon.

The Paris accord is a 2015 U.N. agreement made among nearly 200 nations that committed each country to lowering greenhouse gas emissions to reduce the effects of climate change. The deal was seen as a historic breakthrough when it was signed after decades of international efforts fell short.

Under the Paris accord, President Barack Obama pledged that the United States would strive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 28 percent below its 2005 levels by 2025. Obama also pledged $3 billion to help poorer countries reduce their emissions. The United States is the world's second largest emitter of carbon, after China, so its commitment was crucial. Both countries submitted their carbon-reduction plans under the Paris accord on Sept. 3, in a show of unity.

China, Brown said, is leading the way on climate-change policies after taking over the solar and wind-power industries.

"America, wake up. You aren't going to get gas guzzlers no matter what Donald Trump says," Brown said. "You aren't going to get coal to increase, no matter what Donald Trump says in West Virginia. We have to get with the program. And the program is renewable energy, decarbonizing, and research and development in a way that makes America more sustainable, not less."

Brown has emerged as a leader in the fight against climate change by urging local governments throughout the world to agree to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 to 95 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. In all, 170 governments in 33 countries have joined the so-called "Under2 Coalition," which sets more ambitious goals than the Paris accord. In addition, several nations, including Sweden, Mexico, France and the United Kingdom have endorsed the effort.

The governor leaves this week for China to attend an international climate summit. He is scheduled to visit Chengdu, Nanjing and Beijing to push climate and clean-energy policies.

Brown said that a Trump move to pull the U.S. out of the Paris accord would galvanize activists and push California to double down on its own climate strategies.

"It's a very big deal," Brown said. "It's imperative that other parts of America take action. We can't take action alone."

The president's desire to exit the voluntary agreement is not surprising; he pledged to do so during his campaign. Republicans in the U.S. Senate, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, sent a letter to Trump urging him to live up to his campaign promise and exit the climate accord. Senate Democrats sent Trump a letter saying such an exit would hurt America's credibility, while West Coast members of the House of Representatives called on Brown and governors from Oregon and Washington to push for the core tenets of the Paris Agreement.

"We strongly disagree with President Trump's decision to abdicate America's leadership role, allowing other nations to lead on clean energy and job creation," the lawmakers, including Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, wrote to the three governors.

The U.N. Twitter account quoted Secretary-General Antonio Guterres saying "Climate change is undeniable. Climate change is unstoppable. Climate solutions provide opportunities that are unmatchable."

"California needs to step in to fill the void of American leadership if the president is going to give up on fighting climate change," said state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, whose bills to increase rooftop solar and expand energy storage both cleared the state Senate on Wednesday.

Another bill, SB100 by state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, would require California to receive all of its power from renewable sources by 2045. It, too, passed the state Senate on Wednesday.

"When it comes to our clean air and climate change, we are not backing down," de León said in a statement calling SB100 "the most ambitious target in the world to expand clean energy."

"Now more than ever, it is critical that we double down on climate leadership as we learn that the President intends to withdraw from the Paris agreement," de León said.

Trump's potential withdrawal comes after a recent visit overseas, where he met with Pope Francis, a strong advocate in the fight against climate change. Vatican officials urged Trump not to leave the Paris climate accord.

(c)2017 the San Francisco Chronicle