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‘We’ll Always Have Paris,’ Countries Tell U.S. Cities Ready to Fight Climate Change

With the U.S. federal government pulling out of the Paris accords, U.S. cities, states, and the private sector are picking up the slack.

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President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris climate accords on Thursday, but cities, states, and a spate of companies in a variety of different sectors have all vowed to abide by the landmark pact. As they do, they’re finding a willing partner in government -- just not their own government.

National governments around the world have announced that they stand willing and able to work with those in the United States that want to remain committed to the Paris Agreement, even if their commander in chief doesn’t.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel noted “she was really thrilled that so many states and groups worldwide, also in the U.S., are willing to continue to work together on fighting climate change,” the German embassy told Foreign Policy.

President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris climate accords on Thursday, but cities, states, and a spate of companies in a variety of different sectors have all vowed to abide by the landmark pact. As they do, they’re finding a willing partner in government — just not their own government.

National governments around the world have announced that they stand willing and able to work with those in the United States that want to remain committed to the Paris Agreement, even if their commander in chief doesn’t.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel noted “she was really thrilled that so many states and groups worldwide, also in the U.S., are willing to continue to work together on fighting climate change,” the German embassy told Foreign Policy.

Japan swallowed its disappointment and focused on the bright side of life. Tokyo “explained to the United States government the importance of its engagement,” and expressed its disappointment in the withdrawal, a spokesperson for the Japanese embassy said. “While the United States is a country with the second largest greenhouse gas emissions, it continues to bring innovative technology and policy methods to the environmental field.”

Others noted that climate cooperation is happening, but not necessarily at the federal level. The French Embassy, for example, noted that the driving force behind trans-Atlantic cooperation on climate change is Anne Hidalgo, mayor of Paris and president of C40 Cities, a network of big cities committed to taking action on climate change. That network gives like-minded U.S. mayors a ready-made replacement for Paris. Hidalgo has spent the last few days tweeting out messages of thanks to C40 cities for displaying their support, including Boston, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington, D.C., and, yes, Pittsburgh.

Italy, too, is prepared to partner at the state and local level. There’s Italy’s Smart Cities initiative — an effort to render Genoa, Turin, and Milan more efficient — and those three are ready to work with American counterparts. Italy’s also looking to partner at the regional level with certain states — one Italian diplomat pointed to California as being particularly receptive.

Other countries are looking to cooperate with U.S. cities and states themselves. Notably, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted his regret that the “U.S. federal government” had announced its intent to pull out of Paris, a hint that there were perhaps other forms of government with which Canada planned to do business. Canada has already been working with U.S. states for a while, and Canadian Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna was in California in late April. For a decade, several Canadian provinces have worked with a handful of U.S. states in the so-called Western Climate Initiative.

Canada — the host of this year’s World Environment Day — is also looking to partner with U.S.-based companies, rendering the environmentally beneficial economically profitable. Canada is meeting with American investment groups and organizations such as the Gates Foundation to find new ways to encourage investment in the clean technology sector even in the absence of formal U.S. emissions reductions targets.

Trump kept one of his campaign promises by pulling out of Paris, and promised that doing so would be better for the economy. But cities, states, companies — and countries overseas — don’t seem to have gotten the memo.

Photo credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Emily Tamkin is the U.S. editor of the New Statesman and the author of The Influence of Soros, published July 2020. Twitter: @emilyctamkin

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