The Left Proves You Don’t Need D.C. to Address Environmental Policy

Within weeks of Donald Trump pulling the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord, the left has already begun to prove you don’t need the federal government forcing environmental policies to address climate issues. State and even local action can effectively move things forward.

To date, 285 U.S. mayors have agreed to align their cities with provisions in the Paris agreement and work toward its climate goals. This includes nine of the 10 largest cities in America — New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Diego, Dallas, and San Jose.

“We will continue to lead. We are increasing investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency. We will buy and create more demand for electric cars and trucks. We will increase our efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, create a clean energy economy, and stand for environmental justice. And if the President wants to break the promises made to our allies enshrined in the historic Paris Agreement, we’ll build and strengthen relationships around the world to protect the planet from devastating climate risks.”

This builds on a local movement to address environmental issues that started earlier this spring. In March, a group of mayors declared they would not enforce a Trump administration executive order to roll back some environmental policies Pres. Obama implemented. compared these local efforts on the environment to so-called sanctuary city policies.

Much like the sanctuary city battle playing out between the federal government and cities that have refused to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement, these 75 cities are squaring off against Trump’s new policies with pointed, collective actions that defy the new administration. When Trump announced he was changing vehicle fuel-efficiency standards, a group of Climate Mayors banded together to order $10 billion worth of electric vehicles for their city fleets to prove that the future of transportation is not fossil fuels.

Meanwhile, some states are taking action on the climate as well. Last week, Hawaii Gov.David Ige signed two bill relating to environmental policy. Senate Bill 559 “expands strategies and mechanisms to reduce greenhouse gas emissions statewide,” and House Bill 1578 to “identify agricultural and aquacultural practices to improve soil health and promote carbon sequestration – the capture and long-term storage of atmospheric carbon dioxide to mitigate climate change.”

Upon signing the bills Ige said, “and with that signature, Hawaii becomes the first state in the nation to join the Paris agreement.”

New York Gov. Abdrew Cuomo, California Gov. Jerry Brown and Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee have agreed to form a United States Climate Alliance. The group hopes to convene a coalition of U.S. states committed to upholding the Paris agreement.

“New York State is committed to meeting the standards set forth in the Paris Accord regardless of Washington’s irresponsible actions. We will not ignore the science and reality of climate change, which is why I am also signing an Executive Order confirming New York’s leadership role in protecting our citizens, our environment, and our planet,” Cuomo said in a statement.

When it comes to environmental and immigration policy, the left has discovered federalism. Progressives have embraced James Madison’s blueprint for addressing “unwarrantable” federal actions – refuse to cooperate with the federal government.

Whether or not you agree with the specific policies, this was how the system was designed to work. A decentralized approach allows various jurisdictions to experiment with different policies. If they prove effective, others will do the same. If not, others will reject them and try different approaches. That’s how the system is supposed to work. But when you force one-size fits all solutions down from Washington D.C., you will always meet resistance. In a local setting, you have a better chance of forming something close to a consensus on certain issues. You won’t get much resistance to fighting “climate change” in a city like Santa Monica. You will almost never develop broad support with a national initiative, And when you do succeed in getting a policy implemented at the federal level, a new administration can end what you worked for in one fell swoop. Environmentalist have learned this the hard way with the transition from the Obama to the Trump administration.

State and local reaction to the Trump administration’s withdraw from the Paris agreement proves an important point. You don’t have to force solutions from D.C., even on so-called global issues like the environment.


About Tenth Amendment Center
The Tenth Amendment Center is a national think tank that works to preserve and protect the principles of strictly limited government through information, education, and activism. The center serves as a forum for the study and exploration of state and individual sovereignty issues, focusing primarily on the decentralization of federal government power as required by the Constitution. For more information visit the Tenth Amendment Center Blog.

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