In spite of their president’s stern stance against the Paris Agreement, making the U.S. the only country that is not signatory to it, local authorities are challenging U.S. President Donald Trump to follow the guidelines and goals of the Agreement signed in the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris, 2015. At the 23rd Conference of the Parties (COP23), taking place in the German city of Bonn, U.S. cities have reinforced their commitment to the Paris Agreement by setting up an iconic pavilion separate from COP23’s sections or zones. In the pavilion they raise the flag of climate action under the tagline “We Are Still In,” inviting mayors, governors, college professors and even bishops to speak about their footprint in climate action in their cities. On COP23’s fourth day, November 9, US cities kicked off their campaign in their pavilion with a panel discussion between key players in U.S. climate action on a local level.

Moderated by Anne Kelly, California State Senator Ricardo Lara joined David Philips, Vice President for Energy and Sustainability, University of California, Bishop Marc Andrus from the Episcopal Church, and Jeff Moe, Global Director at Product Advocacy, to discuss their roles in climate action in the City of California.

US Cities

Courtesy of COP23.

In the absence of leadership from the capital, U.S. city representatives as well as states, tribes, businesses, and academics are taking part in COP23 to make it clear that they are “still in” the Paris Agreement in terms of implementation and commitment. “We Are Still In” has collected over 2,500 signatories representing more than 130 million U.S. citizens and USD 6.2 trillion as economic output, making it the largest cross-section of the U.S. economy yet assembled in pursuit of climate action.

“It’s critical for the world to know that the U.S. will continue to lead on climate change – and that we can fulfill our Paris commitments even without help from Washington,” says Michael Bloomberg, UN Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change. “By pitching a big tent in Bonn, we are providing space for American mayors, governors and business leaders to collaborate with their counterparts around the world. In the U.S., progress on climate change has always been driven from the ground up, not the top down–and that’s what we’ll emphasize in Bonn.” The pavilion is being sponsored exclusively by non-federal U.S. actors, such as Bloomberg Philanthropies and NextGen America.

US Cities

Mayor James Brainard on stage. Courtesy of Leena ElDeeb.

“When the President announced he [was] pulling out of the Paris Agreement, 100 percent of a Republican City Council unanimously passed a bill saying we care about the environment,” said Mayor of Carmel, Indiana, Jim Brainard in his opening speech. Brainnard added that this is not a partisan issue, listing down Republican politicians who had strong impacts on the U.S. climate action, including former president Richard Nixon, who created the Environment Protection Agency (EPA).

“The President keeps on talking about making America great again, and he keeps talking about great countries and he talks about greatness in general a lot,” said Brainard. “Well, great countries keep their word when they sign agreements, they care about their planet which they are going to hand over to the next generations.”

The Paris Agreement marks an important milestone for global climate talks, specifically for its encouragement of governments to reduce carbon emissions to limit global warming to below 2°C. During COP23, parties will discuss the implementation structure of the articles of this agreement and address some of the loopholes left by the Paris Agreement.

“The U.S. is going to meet its goals, with or without the federal government,” Brainard concluded.