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Despite Federal Setbacks, Landmark Progress on Climate
By James Griffitts, Contributor

Much has been written on the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement as fear of unchecked climate change abounds. However, despite (and in some cases, subsequent to) the decision, state and local governments and the private sector have made unprecedented commitments to meet climate goals set by the agreement:

  • A long and growing list of organizations, including First Affirmative, are aligning with the We Are Still In movement.
  • More than 300 Mayors have pledged to adhere to the agreement: Cities are moving forward using their own resources.
  • Nine state governments have committed to fulfilling the agreement, as well as 19 state attorneys general.

Backed by thousands of colleges and universities and businesses, the economic weight of the movement is capable of meeting U.S. obligations without federal involvement. And not all members of the Federal Government are walking in lockstep. During his confirmation hearings, Defense Secretary James Mattis referred to climate change as a "driver of instability" that "requires a broader, whole-of-government response." The Pentagon believes climate change poses a threat to the well-being of the world and that it could put U.S. servicemen and women in danger. Military leaders are already making efforts to mitigate climate change.

Companies large and small are making their voices heard. Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft publicly backed the Paris Agreement and continue to invest in clean energy. Even fossil fuel companies, including Shell, Exxon Mobil, Chevron, and BP unambiguously support the Paris deal. Companies that have not stepped up to support climate action face increasing pressure from the public and investors, as evidenced by the recent majority votes by shareholders for greater transparency on carbon emissions.

Even so, the best news may be the growth of renewable energy. Even without subsidies, renewables are competative with fossil fuels, and prices continue to fall as technology improves. As coal is increasingly priced out by cheaper cleaner natural gas, renewables now account for two-thirds of all investment into new generation capacity. Jobs in renewables enjoy rapid growth every year with 777,000 renewable energy jobs in the U.S. and growing. This shift is the result of renewables and no federal action is likely to reverse this.

Posted: August 9, 2017