U.S. Withdrawal from Paris a Tragedy and Incentive

By Anne Hedges

Trump did it again. He felt more compelled to keep an uninformed campaign promise and lie to U.S. coal miners than to maintain U.S. leadership and commitments to this country and the world. Now that is truly SAD.

Our President, who seems to have a vocabulary of less than 100 words, said in his speech announcing U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, “So we’re getting out, but we will start to negotiate, and we will see if we can make a deal that’s fair. And if we can, that’s great. And if we can’t, that’s fine.” In his speech, he exposes himself as a phony by calling the Paris Agreement both “draconian” and “nonbinding” – in the same sentence! As with all things Trump, consistency and truth-telling are not his strong suit.

The implications of U.S. withdrawal are profound on the world stage as well as in this country. But what does this mean for Montana?

Colstrip Power Plant

Colstrip Power Plant

President Obama committed to the Paris Agreement and intended to largely rely on reductions at coal-fired power plants and vehicle efficiency standards to get much of the way to our self-imposed goal. Montana was required under the Clean Power Plan to reduce power plant emissions by 32 percent by 2030. MEIC and Sierra Club’s agreement with the Colstrip owners to close units 1 & 2 will get us most of the way there by 2022. Fortunately, our agreement is set in stone and Trump’s bad behavior can’t alter that.

But in order to reach the final goal by 2030, Montana and most states would have had to increases its deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency. Increasing those two clean energy sources saves consumers money and increases jobs. The death of the Clean Power Plan and the Paris agreement put those jobs, economic development, and consumer savings at risk. That is also SAD, but…

Enter local governments, states, and some of the largest companies in the world. Since Trump announced that he would break international commitments, people have been busy.

  • Governor Bullock and Senator Tester both stated their frustration in calling the decision “short-sighted,” “reckless,” and talking about how climate change threatens Montana agriculture, hunting, and recreation – Montana’s biggest industries.
  • Climate hero Michael Bloomberg announced he will make sure the U.S. makes good on is financial obligations toward the agreement.
  • Mayors across the country joined in. As of 6/6/17 about 250 mayors representing 56 million Americans promised to uphold the goals of the Paris Agreement. Bozeman Mayor Carson Taylor was the first Montana Mayor to join, but he likely won’t be the last.
  • Hundreds of businesses including some of the biggest in the nation, joined forces with Democratic and Republican Governors, Cities and Counties, college and universities, and investors, to say “We’re still in.” These leaders are committing to meeting the Paris Agreement goals with or without the U.S.

Trump’s recklessness aside, this is an amazing showing of commitment and force toward tackling climate change. Montanans will benefit from all of this good work. Businesses get it. State and local governments get it. Higher education gets it. We can and will move forward on clean energy.

Perhaps we’ve been relying too heavily on the federal government to help solve this mess. Perhaps, just perhaps, people will understand the threat is real and THEY have to be part of the solution. Perhaps, this is the motivation we need to really tackle the problem. It’s time for each and every one of us to get busy and do our part. So far the response has been inspiring.