On Thursday 1st June 2017, US President Donald Trump proceeded to do what everybody knew he was going to do and announced that he was pulling the USA out of the Paris Climate Agreement.
The agreement was made in December 2015 and brought together 195 nations from around the world to create a united response to the threat of global warming. Given his history of describing climate change as a hoax created by and for the Chinese, it was widely expected that the Trump administration would reverse the sustainability actions put in place by Barack Obama in favour of policies promoting fracking, coal, and oil, industries in which he has considerable investments.
And that’s exactly what he did.
However, what at first may appear to be a catastrophe for the climate movement may in fact prove to be a catalyst.
There has been magnificent response from America’s states, defying their President’s agenda and declaring their intention to build a sustainable future despite Trump’s decree.
As the Mayor of Pittsburgh, I can assure you that we will follow the guidelines of the Paris Agreement for our people, our economy & future. https://t.co/3znXGTcd8C
— Bill Peduto (@billpeduto) June 1, 2017
In the days following Trump’s announcement, over 246 city mayors signed a joint statement pledging to “honour and uphold the commitments to the goals enshrined in the Paris Agreement”. Together, city and state officials have committed to reduce emissions by more than one gigatonne of carbon-dioxide by 2030 — the same amount pledged by the US in the Paris Agreement. Commenting on these developments, former mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg said:
“The fact of the matter is, Americans don’t need Washington to meet our Paris commitment, and Americans are not going to let Washington stand in the way of fulfilling it”.
It seems that Trump has misjudged the mood of his people, and unwillingly ushered in an newly invigorated spirit of environmental determinism. As one reporter from CNBC writes:
“The Trump presidency marks a new era. As citizens and business leaders, it is now up to us to take the future into our own hands and create the change we want to see”.
And it’s not just Americans who have beeen vocal about a renewed fever of climate activism. The day after Trump’s retraction, China, India and Europe repeated their commitment to save the future of our planet. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said:
“To everyone for whom the future of our planet is important, I say let’s continue going down this path so we’re successful for our Mother Earth.”
In fact, one of the only global leaders not to decry the actions of the U.S. president was the UK Prime Minister Theresa May. Very little was said about the threat of climate change during the recent election campaign, the topic receiving minimal attention from mainstream politicians and media alike.
That’s why we must follow the example of American environmentalists and unite locally to set our own emissions targets and carve our own path to a sustainable future. We cannot rely on leadership from above.
There are many examples of community energy projects across the UK, with at least five thousand community groups undertaking energy initiatives in the last five years, all motivated by a desire to develop locally owned low carbon energy solutions.
We’re in the middle of a seismic shift in the way we produce and consume energy, with the impetus coming from grassroots communities. The change is unstoppable, whatever President Donald Trump and other backwards looking politicians think.
Be a part of the energy revolution. Find your nearest communtiy energy group and get involved today.
The success of two recent events, the decision to reject plans to frack in Lancashire and the recent landmark ruling in the Dutch courts to accelerate action on climate change, symbolise a significant shift towards people being able to have a real impact on decisions being made by policy makers on the environment.
They suggest a move towards a true democracy where the people can mobilise to make a difference in their communities.
Fracking in Lancashire
Local councillors rejected Cuadrilla’s application to frack at Preston New Road, near Blackpool. This decision was made across party lines due to the local councillors’ belief that these plans would have an ‘unacceptable’ impact on the local landscape and residents.
Although this decision could still be overruled at the appeal stage, this is an important event. This represents local councillors taking action which supports local residents in their fight against big companies who are unconcerned with the environmental impact on local people and landscapes.
Case against the Dutch government
Following a recent court case, the Dutch government has been ordered to cut its carbon emissions by at least 25% within the next five years.
Previous to this ruling the only legal requirements for states to take action on climate change were international treaties. This ruling suggests that the state has an obligation to its citizens, not just other states, to have a positive impact on the environment. By framing the case as a human rights issue, the focus is on the impact of climate change on Dutch residents. There is hope that this case could spark similar legal action on climate change in other countries.
Taking action on climate change
There two examples represent ways in which people are taking action on climate change locally. It is becoming increasing clear that people want to have a say in decisions impacting on the future of the environment.
According to a recent study by BHESCo partner Climates, a social network for people taking practical action on climate change, 90% of people want the policy makers to take ambitious action to tackle climate changeat when they meet in Paris for the UNFCCC conference in Paris in December.
Community energy groups, such as BHESCo, are one way to take action with minimal risk involved. Being part of an energy cooperative means being able to have a say in the future of energy generation in your local community. Since half of us believe that it is our individual responsibility to take action, you can become a member of BHESCo to reduce your carbon footprint and tackle climate change.