Commentary from the Sierra Club's Executive Director

Meanwhile, in the Real World

President Trump may have decided he wants to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, but the rest of the country isn’t ready to give up quite so easily.

More than 270 U.S. mayors representing 58 million Americans have now announced that they remain committed to the goals of the Paris Agreement, and 30 cities across the nation have upped the ante by officially committing to transition to using 100 percent clean, renewable energy. Last week, the Los Angeles Department of Public Works announced that it would put new gas-fired power plants on hold as it considered cleaner alternatives. In another major Southern California victory, the California Energy Commission announced last Friday that it would study ways to avoid building a new gas plant in the city of Oxnard.

At the state level, California, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Delaware, Minnesota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Hawaii have all joined a U.S. Climate Alliance committed to both uphold in U.S. commitments under the Paris Agreement and to meet or exceed the goals of the Clean Power Plan. Ten other states that haven’t joined the Alliance have nevertheless pledged to follow the Paris Agreement. At last count, more than 1,200 states, cities, businesses, and universities have stepped forward to reassure the world that President Trump does not speak for them on climate change. Together, they represent 120 million Americans and contribute $6.2 trillion to the U.S. economy.

In fact, most of our national progress on reducing emissions has been driven by community-based, local action. And that progress has been substantial. According to the latest EPA greenhouse gas inventory, by the end of 2015, the U.S. was already 44 percent of the way to meeting its 2025 Paris target. What will maintain that momentum is the unstoppable growth of clean, renewable energy.

Seven years ago, only three states received 10 percent or more of their electricity from utility-scale renewables. Today, 17 states do. Three of those states (Iowa, South Dakota, and Kansas) get 30 percent or more of their electricity from utility-scale wind, and another three (Oklahoma, North Dakota, and California) get more than 20 percent. What’s more, of the top 10 states for renewable electricity generation, five are red states and five are blue states.

Meanwhile, coal-fired power, which is the largest historic contributor to U.S. emissions, continues to decline. Nearly half of the U.S. coal fleet—more than 250 plants—has already either stopped burning coal or begun the process of shutting down. Across the country, many of these coal plants are being replaced by clean, renewable energy. Just last month, utility Xcel Energy announced the largest single clean energy investment in U.S. history: $4 billion worth of new wind energy across eight states that will deliver 3.3 gigawatts of wind power—enough to meet the power demands of more than a million homes.

More work remains, of course. The global challenge posed by climate change is immense, and our response must match it. But if President Trump is hoping to derail that response, his reckless actions are in fact having the opposite effect.