Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto signed an executive order Friday committing his city to the goals of the Paris accord, a day after President Donald Trump announced his intention to pull the United States from the 195-country climate-change agreement.
The mayor's action was a swift rebuttal to the President who, in defending his widely criticized decision Thursday, said he was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not of Paris.
Mr. Peduto joined many governors, mayors and business leaders in the United States who vowed Friday to redouble their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and to show leadership in a climate battle that Mr. Trump is clearly uninterested in pursuing.
"I'm appalled that the President used my city to justify his unacceptable decision, as most other Pittsburghers are," he told reporters after the announcement on Thursday.
On Friday, he signed an order that committed Pittsburgh to work with 81 other cities to meet the Paris objectives by, among other things, cutting energy consumption from city operations by 50 per cent, 100-per-cent renewable-power use, and adopting a fossil-free transportation fleet.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a similar order, while New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, California's Jerry Brown and Washington Governor Jay Inslee launched the United States Climate Alliance, a coalition that will convene U.S. states committed to upholding the Paris climate agreement. Proponents of the climate action hope that a groundswell of state and municipal policies, along with the continued investment in energy efficiency and clean power by businesses, will help fill a gaping hole left by a Republican-led Washington that is moving rapidly to reverse former president Barack Obama's climate policy.
"We are seeing economic leaders, financial leaders, businesses, cities and states all moving forward and I don't think that's going to stop," said Mindy Lubber, chief executive of Ceres, a Boston-based non-profit that works with business and investors on sustainability issues.
Yet, the weight of the U.S. federal government will not be replaced by actions of governors and mayors, especially since 33 states are run by Republican governors and Republican-dominated legislatures that are reluctant to drive up energy costs to speed up a transition from fossil fuels.
Under the United Nations-led accord signed in Paris 18 months ago, 195 countries committed to undertake efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to limit the increase in global temperatures to less than 2 C above preindustrial levels.
Mr. Trump complained the deal would "hamstring" U.S. energy business, particularly the embattled coal industry, and that it favours competitors such as China and India over the interests of the United States.
Clearly, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other world leaders are hopeful that the states and cities will keep up the momentum for emission reductions in the United States. That's especially important for Canada, which will find it increasingly challenging to impose carbon pricing and costly regulation unless there is some policy action south of the border to help level the economic playing field.
Mr. Trudeau spoke on Friday to French President Emmanuel Macron, and the two agreed to work with "like-minded partners" to meet the goals of Paris, the Prime Minister's Office said. Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said many of those partners reside in the United States, despite Washington's reversal.
"The world is moving to a cleaner future. The momentum is unstoppable," the minister told reporters Friday. "U.S. business understands this. U.S. states understand that. U.S. cities understand that, and so we're just going to be moving forward. Canadians understand that."
Mr. Trump's action was widely praised by Republicans in Congress, notably those who represent coal-dependent states that were challenging in court Mr. Obama's Clean Power Plan, a policy that would force them to reduce emissions in the power sector.
Senator John Barrasso, a Republican from Wyoming, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky sent a letter this week signed by 20 other Republican senators, urging the President to announce his intention to withdraw from the agreement, a process that will take four years to complete.
Still, even in states that voted for Mr. Trump, some mayors from the larger cities – which tend to be more liberal than suburbs and rural counties – were voicing their opposition to the Paris move.
Among the rust-belt cities that were quick to condemn Mr. Trump's announcement was Cleveland, where the local government was drafting a resolution to join with other major centres that are committed to staying in the Paris accord.
"We understand how important it is to stay on track and we understand that this is not a hoax. Climate change is a reality," said Anthony Brancatelli, a Cleveland councillor who worked to draft the resolution.
But while Mr. Trump's announcement this week may galvanize cities and states to band together on climate policy, a much more significant issue for environmental supporters is the Trump administration's proposed budget cuts to funding for clean-energy programs and investment, said Mark Muro, director of policy at the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy Program.
"With multiple billions of dollars of innovation, research and development, technology deployment, scale-up and renewables incentives being downsized, that's a big gap, that's a big problem," he said.
In Cleveland, Mr. Brancatelli's biggest fear is whether Mr. Trump might threaten to retaliate against cities that support the Paris agreement by slashing crucial community-development grants. He has threatened to cut funding to communities that have declared themselves sanctuary cities on immigration. "It makes me very nervous [about] what cuts is he going to make to the cities that step up and say this is important to us."