Thirty states and scores of companies said Thursday that they would press ahead with their climate policies and pursue lower greenhouse gas emissions, breaking sharply with President Trump’s decision to exit the historic Paris climate accord.
In a pointed rebuttal to Trump’s announcement in the Rose Garden of the White House, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) unveiled a plan Thursday to invest $1.65 billion in renewable energy and energy efficiency, the largest procurement of renewable energy by an American state.
Meanwhile, more than two dozen big companies — including Apple, Morgan Stanley and Royal Dutch Shell — urged Trump not to exit the Paris agreement on Thursday.
President Trump framed his renunciation of the Paris climate accord as a historic moment in defense of American workers and the economy. But the actions of state capitols and corporate board rooms offered a counterpoint to the rationale behind Trump’s move.
Across the nation and the economy, renewable energy technologies have taken root and have gathered momentum of their own while creating thousands of new jobs, state and corporate officials said. And the pressures on executives of companies to address the issue have grown greater as major financial firms for the first time press the issue.
The Trump administration’s decision to exit the landmark climate agreement will damage America’s international standing on climate issues and make it nearly impossible for the world to reach internationally agreed upon goals of limiting global warming, officials said.
Elon Musk, chief executive of Tesla, and Robert Iger, chief executive of Disney, both resigned from the president’s advisory council after the announcement. Lloyd Blankfein, chief executive of Goldman Sachs, tweeted that Trump’s decision “is a setback for the environment and for the U.S.’s leadership position in the world.”
But the action comes well after many corporate board rooms and state capitols had adopted climate change as a given, officials and executives said.
On Thursday, Cuomo unveiled his plan for investing $1.5 billion in renewable energy and energy efficiency. In an interview, he said he would spend an additional $150 million to give solar energy a boost on the rooftops of schools and other public buildings.
While Trump has cited his concern about coal jobs in withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement, Cuomo said his latest energy initiative, combined with earlier measures, would create 40,000 jobs by 2020 — nearly twice the current number of mining and logging jobs in the state of West Virginia, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Cuomo, who has made renewable energy a priority since Hurricane Sandy hit the Northeast in 2012, expects the state’s solar capacity to more than double to about 1,600 megawatts by the end of 2018, and he said he would provide new incentives for the installation of 125 megawatts of solar on the rooftops of schools and other government buildings. The governor added that the state has established a partnership with a consortium of banks to finance energy and solar projects.
“As the federal government abdicates its responsibility to address climate change — at the expense of our environment and economy — New York is leading the nation in advancing a clean energy future,” Cuomo said in a statement. He said that with the package of measures, “New York continues to tackle the challenges of climate change and create the high-quality, good-paying careers of tomorrow.”
Cuomo isn’t alone. About 30 states have adopted mandates for utilities to increase their use of renewable energy, standards that will not change with Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris accord or his effort to nullify the Clean Power Plan.
In California, state legislators are looking at ways to boost renewable energy activity even as Trump moves to undercut that sector. On Wednesday the state Senate voted to make utilities use 100 percent renewable energy by 2045 and 60 percent by 2030. The current standard in both California and New York is for utilities to get 50 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2030.
Though the California Senate measure must still win approval of the State Assembly and Gov. Jerry Brown (D), it sent a signal. “It draws a huge contrast between Trump wanting to go backwards and states trying to take the lead in tackling the climate crisis,” said Anna Aurilio, legislative director of Environment America.
“The California economy last year increased 40 percent faster than the rest of the country,” Brown said in a conference call Thursday. “In fact, following policies even tougher than what Paris is calling for, the California economy is boosted. Trump is wrong when he says Paris is bad for jobs. It’s good for jobs. The jobs of the future.”
Cuomo, Brown and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) said they were forming a coalition of states determined to stick to the Paris targets. The three states account for a fifth of the U.S. economy.
Many energy experts say that progress will continue on greenhouse gas emissions even if the United States drops out of the Paris agreement.
“The net impact to our emissions performance is likely zero to negligible,” said Andy Karsner, a former climate negotiator for President George W. Bush. “I don’t actually believe for a moment that a withdrawal from Paris is tantamount to abating our efforts, direction or momentum toward increased penetration of clean-energy technologies. Washington does not have the power to put the genie back in the bottle.”
Karsner, now managing partner at the Emerson Collective, compared renewable energy progress to the Pony Express. “When the Pony Express changed to air mail, then the Pony Express was done. Obsolete,” he said. “When the Pony Express gives way to email, then the Pony Express is a distant memory, a romantic relic. That’s what is happening in the world of energy technology. That has been our national aspiration for decades. We have invested in this outcome for our well-being. And we’re winning. We’re ahead in the score. And we have a president who wants to quit the game.”
Trump’s announcement coincides with signs that climate concerns are growing stronger in the financial community. A resolution instructing corporate managements to do the climate equivalent of a stress test — describing in detail the effects of government policies designed to limit global warming increase to 2 degrees Centigrade — has been adopted at Occidental Petroleum, the utility PPL and ExxonMobil over the protests of management. Major financial advisory firms Vanguard, BlackRock and State Street bucked tradition and backed the resolutions.
On Thursday, 25 major companies took out a full-page advertisement in the New York Times with a letter addressed to Trump. The companies — including Google, Apple, Intel, Microsoft, Mars, Schneider Electric, Morgan Stanley and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts — urged Trump to stay in the Paris accord.
“As businesses concerned with the well-being of our customers, our investors, our communities and our suppliers, we are strengthening our climate resilience,” the letter said, “and we are investing in innovative technologies that can help achieve a clean energy transition.” But it said that government and U.S. leadership was essential, too.
Separately, Royal Dutch Shell said in a statement that it had shared with the Trump administration “our strong support for the U.S. remaining in the agreement.” It added, “For our part, we will continue to take internal actions and convene important conversations that acknowledge our role in providing more and cleaner energy.”
Trump’s appeal to working-class voters helped him win the White House last year, but Cuomo worked with Cornell University’s industrial and labor relations school and New York unions to agree on ways to train workers for new positions.
“There’s been much talk about losing jobs. This partnership is aimed at creating good middle-class jobs while protecting the environment,” said Vinny Alvarez, president of the New York City Central Labor Council, which represents 300 unions and 1.3 million workers.
Cuomo’s plan would invest $1.5 billion in renewable energy credits, which are generated by renewable energy projects. The plan would limit the money to new projects that deliver power to consumers in the state. Richard L. Kauffman, chairman of energy and finance for New York state, said that “the extent of the state’s new commitment for renewable resources is several orders of magnitude greater than anything we’ve seen before in our state.”