Thirteen states, at least 80 mayors, and more than 100 businesses will task themselves to meet ambitious climate-change goals—with or without federal participation.
The newly formed United States Climate Alliance—which so far has support from more than a dozen states including New York, California, and Massachusetts—says it will collectively buck President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.
The group will tackle climate change outside federal purview by submitting its own plan to the United Nations to continue cutting greenhouse emissions.
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More states may join the alliance to cut planet-warming emissions by 2025. It's unclear what kind of separate agreement could be made with the UN; a former official told The New York Times there's no mechanism in place for the body to negotiate outside of member countries.
UPDATE: Since this piece was published on June 8, officials from nine Northeastern and mid-Atlantic states met to strengthen their Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. The program limits carbon emissions and requires companies to pay for emitting carbon into the atmosphere within the nine states. On June 27, the group proposed to reduce permissible limits two years earlier.
Within the week before that meeting, 18 additional mayors of U.S. cities joined more than 500 community leaders who called on the group to strengthen the regional Initiative.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo unveils
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement welcoming 10 additional states to the alliance that Trump's action of pulling out of the Paris accord was "irresponsible."
"As the federal government turns its back on the environment, New York and states across the country are picking up the mantle of climate leadership and showing the world it’s possible to address climate change while also creating good-paying careers," Cuomo said in a statement.
States step up
"The U.S. Climate Alliance is committed to meeting the standards set forth in the Paris Accord regardless of Washington’s irresponsible actions. We welcome these 10 new members and look forward to collaborating and maintaining the momentum in the global effort to protect our planet, while jumpstarting the clean energy economy."
Any outside agreement between states and the UN may be on constitutionally shaky ground, however. The Constitution bans states from negotiating interstate agreements, or with foreign governments, without congressional approval.
However, a non-binding agreement without any enforcement provisions—a description that includes the Paris accord—may fall outside that statute.
The 13 states in the alliance lean largely Democratic: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington. (Virginia is an exception: it has swung for Republicans before.)
Dozens of mayors from cities have signed on to the alliance, including Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Salt Lake City, and such large global companies as Mars and Hewlett-Packard have signed on as well.
Wind farm outside Fort MacLeod, Alberta, Canada [photographer: Joel Bennett]
Clean energy big business in red states
Conversely, in states that favored Trump in the 2016 election, even clean energy is big business.
Five states, according to The New York Times—Iowa, Kansas, South Dakota, Oklahoma, and North Dakota—that receive the largest amount of their power from wind turbines voted for Trump in November.
Texas, which produces the lion's share of the country's wind power, also swung in favor of Trump. Their participation in an alliance may be unlikely, but the generation of clean energy in those states is well-documented.
Meanwhile, both press and analysts have largely discredited Trump and his administration's claims that withdrawing from the agreement has so far created tens of thousands for coal miners.
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