Yesterday, President Trump exited the Paris Climate Agreement, a 2015 pact that was intended to bring the world community together to respond to climate change. With 195 nations having signed, and with the US as the world’s second largest polluter, this comes to many of us as a huge blow.
At NWEI, we have been considering how to respond to such devastating news. We’re acknowledging the hard emotions. There is disappointment, anger, confusion and disbelief. Some of us turn to feelings of fear, doubt, indifference or powerlessness. But we are also remembering our core belief that each person has the power to create positive action. Since our inception nearly 25 years ago, we’ve always advocated that change happens as a result of individuals impacting their spheres of influence. At this time, it may be easy to wonder what difference our work actually makes, given the current reality. Now more than ever, our efforts to protect the planet are being put to the test.
And yet, individuals and institutions are immediately stepping up in response to the White House decision. Just hours after the announcement was made, American civic leaders, governors, mayors, business leaders, the clean energy sector and investors prepared to step up to the climate challenge. Just as the Mayor’s National Climate Action Agenda reminds us, “The world cannot wait – and neither will we.” 83 US mayors have already adopted the Paris Climate Accord, and 29 cities are moving towards 100% clean energy in response to the federal decision. Furthermore, representatives from many other cities, states, college campuses and businesses are submitting a plan to the United Nations, pledging to meet the US greenhouse gas emission targets laid out in the Paris Accord. With over 80 universities already on board, and more than 100 companies, these individuals and organizations are a reminder that we can stay engaged and active, despite federal decisions.
As Bill McKibben says, “As the federal government reneges on its commitments, the rest of us will double down on ours.” Beyond “resisting,” there is another way. We can continue to strengthen our local communities and our connection with others. We can focus on what is working, and put our energy there. We can keep cultivating positive and workable alternatives. We can encourage our workplaces, schools and communities to continue progress towards a cleaner energy future. Indeed, we as individuals can – and will – pick up where where our leaders leave off.