Despite the scientific community's concerns over global warming, the United States is set to become the only country in the world that won't cooperate with the Paris agreement. Americans and foreign leaders alike expressed disappointment this summer when Trump announced his plans for the United States to abandon the climate deal. But now, some U.S. leaders are taking the fight against climate change in their own hands. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced this week that 10 more cities have signed the Chicago Climate Charter, a framework of steps that cities should take to meet environmental goals.
The international agreement counts 67 signatories now, from Mayor Greg Fischer of Louisville, Kentucky to Mayor Miguel Mancera of Mexico City, Mexico. The agreement and the complete list of cities that joined the Chicago Climate Charter, the majority of which are in the United States, can be found on the charter's website. These cities pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an aggregate of at least 26 to 28 percent below the 2005 level by 2025. This is the same commitment the Obama administration made for the United States when negotiating the Paris climate agreement in 2015.
According to a press release from City of Chicago, cities in the Chicago Climate Charter will work with experts, communities, businesses, and underrepresented groups to develop more environmentally-friendly policies. The Chicago Climate Charter also asks each city to quantify, track, and publicly report the progress it makes toward reaching the city's individual commitments. Individual pledges include investing in public transit systems to reduce the carbon footprint, reducing the carbon footprint in new and existing infrastructure, and accelerating access to affordable renewable energy.
"Here in Arizona, extreme heat as a result of climate change is a huge issue," said Mayor Greg Stanton of Phoenix, Arizona in a public statement. "This is not a hypothetical debate. It's happening in real time here in Arizona." Phoenix is one of the 67 cities that signed the Chicago Climate Pact.
The agreement itself grew from the 2017 North American Climate Summit in Chicago in early December. The summit recognized several cities for their already ongoing efforts to battle global warming. “Rather than burying our heads in the sand, Chicago is working with cities across the country and around the world to address the threat of climate change,” Emanuel said at the summit. Emanuel's own plans for Chicago include retrofitting the city's buildings to become more energy efficient and powering all the public buildings by 100 percent renewable energy by 2025.
“Folks, you don’t need a weatherman to see which way the wind is blowing,” said WGN-TV's chief meteorologist Tom Skilling at the summit. “It’s cities and mayors that are leading the way in saving our planet.”
This collaborative effort on a city level flies in contrast to actions taken at a federal level. Scott Pruitt, Trump's appointee to head of the Environmental Protection Agency, doubts the overwhelming scientific consensus that links human activity to global warming. Pruitt has often claimed that the EPA's regulations exceed federal authority. According to Pruitt, by repealing the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan, the "Trump administration is respecting states’ role and reinstating transparency into how we protect our environment." During his time as Oklahoma Attorney General, Pruitt worked with oil and gas companies to challenge air and water regulations.
“Not since Anne Gorsuch in the 1980s has the EPA been led by an administrator who is so overtly hostile to the agency’s core mission and to the enforcement of environmental laws,” Paul Sabin, an environmental historian at Yale University, told Weather.com. Earlier in December Trump also dropped climate change from the list of national security threats, despite the communities at risk, ranging from displaced coastal residents to loss of homes in wildfires.
The federal government seems to swing between ignoring the consequences of global warming to actively trying to undermine any efforts to address climate change. But as U.S. mayors across the country have said, they're going through with their own plan of action — with or without Trump.