Illustration by Owen Thomas
Illustration by Owen Thomas

President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord was a selfish and destructive choice. The U.S. should not back out of a climate agreement that carries global, domestic, economic and environmental implications. California is leading an alliance of more than 160 U.S. cities and numerous states vowing to meet the Paris Agreement goals without help from the federal government.

The Paris Agreement, an international treaty part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), was a breakthrough in international environmental policy that set goals for maintaining and lowering global temperature by aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Only two other countries besides the U.S. are not participating. These are Nicaragua, because it thought the agreement’s policies were not tough enough, and Syria, because it’s in the midst of a civil war.

The U.S. has emitted more greenhouse gasses than any other country in world history. Trump’s decision to leave the agreement under an “America First” policy is irresponsible and unfairly shifts the burden of curbing climate change onto other countries.

But Trump’s decision to withdraw from the climate accord on a federal level need not affect the country’s ability to meet its goals of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

“Trump is AWOL but California is on the field, ready for battle,” Gov. Jerry Brown said in a statement released after the president’s announcement.

Lowering and maintaining the global temperature is important for the well-being of the planet and the U.S. backing out of the agreement sends a message to the rest of the world that its well-being doesn’t matter. By committing to curb emissions on state and local levels, the people of the U.S. can still support the worldwide effort to meet Paris Agreement goals.

Jerry Brown recently traveled to China to meet with President Xi Jinping to discuss the U.S.’s withdrawal from the agreement and to emphasize California’s commitment to curbing global emissions. Jinping and China have been some of Trump’s greatest critics surrounding his climate policy.

The U.S. is already largely on track to meet goals put forth by the agreement and with continued support from U.S. cities and states, the country could meet its goals. Emissions reductions through state and city regulations already account for an estimated 70 to 80 percent of the country’s total, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a Los Angeles Times article.

This makeshift initiative to support the agreement without Trump has already gained support in Atlanta, Pittsburgh, New York City and Los Angeles. Even in red states, legislation is in place to meet Paris Agreement goals.

Trump argues the agreement threatens the country’s autonomy in setting its own environmental goals geared toward helping the American economy, but leaving the Paris Agreement for economic reasons is absurd. Cleaner energy such as natural gas is now at least as cheap as dirty energy such as coal and leaving a commitment that will further develop clean energy could shift clean energy development and technology jobs overseas and harm the U.S. economy.

Businesses such as Tesla, Apple, HP, IBM, Google and Shell Oil have made statements against Trump’s decision to leave the agreement and many have also restated commitments to environmental protection.

The U.S. states, cities and businesses committing to the Paris Agreement need to continue to hold up the agreement and encourage more to do the same, showing the rest of the world that the U.S. supports efforts to curb climate change regardless of our federal government’s separationist attitude.