Cal­i­for­nia takes lead to honor Paris ac­cord

In a back­lash af­ter Pres­i­dent Trump pulls out of the deal, cities and states vow to live up to U.S. prom­ises.

Los Angeles Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Evan Halper

WASHINGTON — Pres­i­dent Trump may be quit­ting the Paris ac­cord on cli­mate change — but forc­ing the rest of the na­tion to go along with him is prov­ing more of a chal­lenge.

Led by Cal­i­for­nia, dozens of states and cities across the coun­try re­sponded Fri­day to Trump’s at­tack on the world­wide agree­ment by vow­ing to ful­fill the U.S. com­mit­ment with­out Washington — a goal that is not out of reach.

The de­fi­ance is a sig­nal to the world that the po­lit­i­cal forces be­hind Amer­ica’s cli­mate fight aim to out­ma­neu­ver this White House and to re­sume the na­tion’s lead­er­ship role when Trump changes jobs or changes his mind.

The push­back also re­flects how far most of the coun­try — in­clud­ing many Re­pub­li­can parts — al­ready have moved in tran­si­tion­ing to cleaner en­ergy, even as Trump works to slow that mo­men­tum.

“The Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment may have pulled out of the agree­ment, but the Amer­i­can peo­ple re­main com­mit­ted to it — and we will meet our tar­gets,” for­mer New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, a spe­cial en­voy for cities and cli­mate change to the United Na­tions, said Fri­day af­ter meet­ing in Paris with French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron and Paris Mayor Anne Hi­dalgo.

It will be a heavy lift. States and cities would need to meet a pledge to re­duce Amer­ica’s green­house gas emis­sions to 26% be­low 2005

lev­els by 2025, Amer­ica’s self-de­clared tar­get un­der the deal.

Even with buy-in from the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, there were doubts about hit­ting that non­bind­ing tar­get. Trump has made it a lot more com­pli­cated by spurn­ing the ac­cord — but not im­pos­si­ble.

Cal­i­for­nia, the na­tion’s leader in emis­sions re­duc­tion, has al­ready joined with New York and Washington state to build an al­liance of states that will guide the na­tion to Paris com­pli­ance in the ab­sence of lead­er­ship from the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.

Los An­ge­les Mayor Eric Garcetti is lead­ing cities in a par­al­lel ef­fort that al­ready has en­listed 150 mem­bers.

“Cities and states are al­ready where most of the ac­tion on cli­mate is,” the Demo­crat said Fri­day. “Our mes­sage is clear to the world: Amer­i­cans are with you, even if the White House isn’t.… Trump’s move is go­ing to have un­in­tended con­se­quences of us all do­ing the op­po­site of what the pres­i­dent wants. It will in many ways greatly back­fire.”

Garcetti es­ti­mated that 70% to 80% of the work on re­duc­ing emis­sions is hap­pen­ing at the state and lo­cal level, re­gard­less of fed­eral pol­icy. That in­cludes re­new­able en­ergy man­dates set by util­ity com­mis­sions, fuel mileage stan­dards and ef­fi­ciency rules for ap­pli­ances.

While may­ors and governors can’t sign onto to the Paris agree­ment — only heads of state can do that — they can prove ef­fec­tive shadow par­tic­i­pants.

Many of them have forged close re­la­tion­ships with the key cli­mate play­ers in other coun­tries over the years, sign­ing their own cli­mate pacts abroad and par­tic­i­pat­ing in var­i­ous ca­pac­i­ties in land­mark cli­mate ne­go­ti­a­tions, such as those that took place in Paris and Ky­oto, Ja­pan.

Bloomberg, a bil­lion­aire phi­lan­thropist, has al­ready pledged to cover the $15 mil­lion the U.S. is reneg­ing on by per­son­ally pay­ing into the op­er­a­tions fund of the U.N. agency over­see­ing the Paris ac­cord.

He an­nounced Fri­day that he would of­fi­cially in­form the U.N. that the U.S. will meet its emis­sions obli­ga­tions, not­ing it is al­ready half­way there — thanks to bet­ter fuel econ­omy stan­dards, the shale gas rev­o­lu­tion and more re­new­able en­ergy sources — and is po­si­tioned to step up its ef­forts

‘Trump’s move is go­ing to have un­in­tended con­se­quences of us all do­ing the op­po­site of what the pres­i­dent wants. It will in many ways greatly back­fire.’ — Eric Garcetti, Los An­ge­les mayor

with­out any help from Washington.

None of this is new for Cal­i­for­nia. It was amid the cli­mate in­ac­tion of Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush’s ad­min­is­tra­tion that the state passed AB 32, one of the world’s most ag­gres­sive cli­mate change laws at the time.

Decades be­fore that, Cal­i­for­nia im­posed ve­hi­cle emis­sions stan­dards be­fore the fed­eral gov­ern­ment had any. In re­cent years, many other states have be­gun to com­pete with Cal­i­for­nia in the race to re­duce emis­sions.

“We have more ri­vals, if you will, with other states step­ping up to act in this area,” said Mary Ni­chols, the state’s top cli­mate change reg­u­la­tor.

Now the suc­cess of the rene­gade ef­fort to bring the U.S. in com­pli­ance with the Paris ac­cord will prob­a­bly hinge on how much fur­ther Cal­i­for­nia can push the na­tion. Even there, the Trump White House is an­gling to in­sert it­self.

It is threat­en­ing to block Cal­i­for­nia from im­ple­ment­ing ag­gres­sive new fuel mileage stan­dards. If the White House suc­cess­fully fol­lows through, that could jeop­ar­dize the abil­ity of states and cities to meet the Paris cli­mate ac­tion com­mit­ments, ac­cord­ing to Michael Wara, a pro­fes­sor of en­ergy law at Stan­ford Univer­sity.

Ve­hi­cles ac­count for more than a third of green­house gas emis­sions, and Cal­i­for­nia has unique author­ity un­der the law to set mileage stan­dards lower than the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s. Un­der the Clean Air Act, other states can adopt those stan­dards, and sev­eral have.

The other mas­sive source of green­house gases is power plants, and in that sec­tor the U.S. con­tin­ues to cut emis­sions sig­nif­i­cantly with­out the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.

Wara said nat­u­ral gas prices had dropped so low that most states would prob­a­bly meet the tar­gets the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion set for them through the Clean Power Plan — the sig­na­ture fed­eral cli­mate ac­tion Trump has or­dered dis­man­tled.

Prices for so­lar and wind power are also plung­ing, lead­ing to their pro­lif­er­a­tion even in states that are not ag­gres­sively man­dat­ing their use.

Ex­perts cau­tion that with­out the back­stop of a fed­eral com­mit­ment to Paris, the mo­men­tum could slow and the goal of de­fi­antly meet­ing ini­tial pledges in the ac­cord could drift out of reach. An in­crease in nat­u­ral gas prices or the price of so­lar pan­els, or a fur­ther drop in the cost of gaso­line at the pump, could throw things off.

“I have no doubt we can achieve a lot,” said Jody Freeman, who ad­vised for­mer Pres­i­dent Obama on cli­mate change. “But it is chal­leng­ing to match what would have been pos­si­ble stay­ing in Paris.”

Many politi­cians are try­ing. Among them is Bill Pe­duto, the mayor of Pitts­burgh — a city that Trump has said re­peat­edly he is putting ahead of Paris in his re­buke of the ac­cord.

On the eve of Trump’s planned “Pitts­burgh Not Paris March” on Satur­day, Pe­duto an­nounced a pledge to move his city to 100% re­new­able en­ergy by 2035.

Trump’s “mis­guided de­ci­sion to with­draw from the Paris cli­mate [agree­ment] does not re­flect the val­ues of our city,” said Pe­duto, a Demo­crat.

Sim­i­lar sen­ti­ments echoed across the na­tion.

“The City of At­lanta will in­ten­sify our ef­forts to re­duce CO2 emis­sions, work to cool the planet by two de­grees, ramp up clean en­ergy solutions and seek ev­ery op­por­tu­nity to assert our lead­er­ship on this ur­gent is­sue,” At­lanta Mayor Kasim Reed said in a state­ment.

Even in ar­eas else­where in the Deep South where Trump’s move was wel­comed by Re­pub­li­can law­mak­ers, state poli­cies that will spur sig­nif­i­cant emis­sions re­duc­tions are in place.

“Even the red state gov­ern­ments un­der­stand that the eco­nomic cir­cum­stances have changed and clean en­ergy is at least as cheap as dirty en­ergy,” said Kurt Ebers­bach, se­nior at­tor­ney with the South­ern En­vi­ron­men­tal Law Cen­ter, a non­profit le­gal ad­vo­cacy or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Demo­cratic Gov. An­drew Cuomo ex­pressed re­solve to per­se­vere with the Paris com­mit­ments by or­der­ing, in Trump’s home­town of New York, One World Trade Cen­ter and the Kosciuszko Bridge be­tween Brook­lyn and Queens to be il­lu­mi­nated in green.

New York Mayor Bill de Bla­sio, also a Demo­crat, was vis­it­ing a Brook­lyn neigh­bor­hood dev­as­tated by Su­per­storm Sandy when Trump an­nounced the U.S. with­drawal from the cli­mate pact on Thurs­day.

“All that oc­curred in that su­per­storm was be­cause of cli­mate change,” De Bla­sio said dur­ing the open­ing of a new ferry ser­vice in the low­ly­ing Red Hook neigh­bor­hood. “We’ve al­ready borne the brunt here in New York City. It’s only go­ing to get worse if some­thing is not done quickly to re­verse the course the Earth is on.”

Na­dine Achoui-Lesage As­so­ci­ated Press

PARIS CITY HALL was il­lu­mi­nated in green Thurs­day af­ter Pres­i­dent Trump’s an­nounce­ment that the United States would with­draw from the Paris cli­mate agree­ment, which most na­tions signed last year.

Christophe Petit Tesson Euro­pean Pressphoto Agency

“WE WILL MEET our tar­gets,” Michael R. Bloomberg said in Paris af­ter he met with Mayor Anne Hi­dalgo, left, and French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron, right. He said he’d pay $15 mil­lion the U.S. is reneg­ing on.

Steve Helber As­so­ci­ated Press

A COAL SHIP is pic­tured in 2016 in New­port News in Vir­ginia, where Gov. Terry McAuliffe has joined in crit­i­ciz­ing Pres­i­dent Trump’s de­ci­sion. He said his state would con­tinue its ef­forts to com­bat cli­mate change.

Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

EN­VI­RON­MEN­TAL Pro­tec­tion Agency Ad­min­is­tra­tor Scott Pruitt faced a bar­rage of ques­tions Fri­day about Trump’s de­ci­sion the day be­fore.

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