Count Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin and USC President Harris Pastides among those who aren’t giving up on Paris climate accord.
Benjamin and Pastides, along with Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg, signed an open letter titled “We Are Still In,” pledging to supply the “leadership” required to fulfill the United States’ role in the Paris accord.
Last week, President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the international pact to address climate change, calling the agreement “incredibly bad.”
In spite of that decision, civic leaders across the U.S. have pledged to do their part to honor the Paris accord. The letter has already been signed by hundreds of city and county officials, states, private businesses and 183 heads of universities and colleges.
“In the absence of leadership from Washington, states, cities, colleges and universities, businesses and investors, representing a sizeable percentage of the U.S. economy will pursue ambitious climate goals, working together to take forceful action and to ensure that the U.S. remains a global leader in reducing emissions,” was one passage from the letter.
Benjamin echoed those sentiuments when addressing teh issue last week.
“There are … thoughtful leaders who care about the environment, who care about the world that we have inherited from our ancestors, who care deeply about the world that we’re passing on to our chidlren,” said Benjamin.
The Paris accord set a goal of fighting climate change by keeping the increase in global average temperature below 2 degrees Celsius and lowering greenhouse gas emissions. At present, 195 countries have signed the agreement.
Aside from the U.S., the only countries in the U.N. that didn’t support the Paris deal are Nicaragua and Syria.
“I have never aspired to be included in a group only with Syria and Nicaragua,” Benjamin said.
The U.S. produces the second-highest carbon emissions in the world, behind only China, which is signed onto the Paris accord to lower warming-causing greenhouse gas emissions.
Former S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley, now the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., took a different approach on the issue. Haley made the rounds on the Sunday morning news programs, offering her support of the president’s decision.
“I think that what we did was, we watched out for our country,” Haley said of Trump, before lobbing criticism at his predecessor, President Barack Obama, who entered the U.S. into the pact through an executive agreement in September 2016.
“I was a governor in South Carolina,” she said. “I know how tough these regulations President Obama put on us, because of the Paris Agreement, were on our businesses and our industries. … We will always be a leader in the environment – that’s what we do, that’s who we are. But we’re going to make sure that we’re not hurting our companies in the process and (that) there is a balance.”
Staff writer Sarah Ellis contributed to this report.
We are still in
Open letter to the international community and parties to the Paris Agreement from U.S. state, local, and business leaders
We, the undersigned mayors, governors, college and university leaders, businesses, and investors are joining forces for the first time to declare that we will continue to support climate action to meet the Paris Agreement.
In December 2015 in Paris, world leaders signed the first global commitment to fight climate change. The landmark agreement succeeded where past attempts failed because it allowed each country to set its own emission reduction targets and adopt its own strategies for reaching them. In addition, nations – inspired by the actions of local and regional governments, along with businesses – came to recognize that fighting climate change brings significant economic and public health benefits.
The Trump administration's announcement undermines a key pillar in the fight against climate change and damages the world's ability to avoid the most dangerous and costly effects of climate change. Importantly, it is also out of step with what is happening in the United States.
In the U.S., it is local and state governments, along with businesses, that are primarily responsible for the dramatic decrease in greenhouse gas emissions in recent years. Actions by each group will multiply and accelerate in the years ahead, no matter what policies Washington may adopt.
In the absence of leadership from Washington, states, cities, colleges and universities, businesses and investors, representing a sizeable percentage of the U.S. economy will pursue ambitious climate goals, working together to take forceful action and to ensure that the U.S. remains a global leader in reducing emissions.
It is imperative that the world know that in the U.S., the actors that will provide the leadership necessary to meet our Paris commitment are found in city halls, state capitals, colleges and universities, investors and businesses. Together, we will remain actively engaged with the international community as part of the global effort to hold warming to well below 2°C and to accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy that will benefit our security, prosperity, and health.