Will Trump join forces with US cities to combat climate change?

As Donald Trump's climate-denying rhetoric appeared to soften this week, the Mayors of 35 US cities have vowed to accelerate efforts towards a low-carbon transition - with or without the President-elect.

Earlier this week, Trump looked to distance himself from his previous stance that climate change was a “hoax” created by China to stifle the US manufacturing sector. In an interview with The New York Times, the soon-to-be White House incumbent stressed that he remained “open-minded” on the US’s membership of the Paris Agreement, saying, “I’m looking at it very closely”. In addressing the issue of air pollution, he said, “clean air is vitally important”.

It remains to be seen if Trump’s shift in rhetoric will translate into a strong position on climate change when he is sworn into office in January. Regardless of the uncertainty, the world’s second largest emitting country will maintain a champion of the low-carbon agenda, in the form of US cities.

After Chinese officials reiterated support for climate change action in Marrakech last week, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg confirmed that China’s efforts would be supported by US cities and businesses, who would take on the mantle as a matter of self-interest. Bloomberg suggested that if Trump decided to withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement, he would urge the mayors of 128 US cities to join ranks and enter the deal.

In an op-ed article published by Bloomberg View on Tuesday (22 November), the media tycoon said: “The US’s success in fighting climate change has never been primarily dependent on Washington. Bear in mind: Over the past decade, Congress has not passed a single bill that takes direct aim at climate change. Yet at the same time, the US has led the world in reducing emissions. 

“That progress has been driven by cities, businesses and citizens – and none of them are letting up now. Just the opposite: All are looking for ways to expand their efforts. Mayors and local leaders around the country are determined to keep pushing ahead on climate change – because it is in their interest to do so.”

Standing united

Bloomberg’s rallying cry to US mayors appears to have paid dividends. Yesterday, the leaders of 35 small and large cities, comprising of nearly 30 million Americans, wrote to the President-elect to ask for his partnership on climate action. Noting the effects of climate change such as extreme storms, wildfires, sea level rise and air pollution, the signatories warned the issue was “an urgent and growing threat to our national security”.

Mayors from the likes of New York City, Washington and San Francisco called on Trump and the new federal Government to expand renewable energy sources and green infrastructure to achieve US energy security and create a manufacturing, energy and construction boom in America.

The letter reads: “We ask that you help provide American businesses the certainty to invest through continued tax credits for electric vehicles, solar power, renewables and other clean technologies. And we ask that you shift to embrace the Paris Climate Agreement and make US cities your partner in doing so.

“While we are prepared to forge ahead even in the absence of federal support, we know that if we stand united on this issue, we can make change that will resonate for generations. We have no choice and no room to doubt our resolve. The time for bold leadership and action is now.”

‘Prosperity at risk’

The letter follows on from a statement from more than 360 US-based businesses and investors, including Ikea, Unilever, Mars and Nike, which called for Trump to sign the Paris Agreement, warning that a failure to build a low-carbon economy will put “American prosperity at risk”.

While national governments have dismissed the idea of inducing a carbon tax on all American imports if the US does vacate the Agreement, the business sphere continues to push the low-carbon agenda.

For example, more than 150 companies have signed up to Barack Obama’s American Business Act on Climate Pledge, with pledges going as far as to reduce in-house emissions by 50%, purchase 100% renewable energy and achieve zero-deforestation in supply chains.

George Ogleby

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