**by Mark Lee, Executive Director, SustainAbility and Sustainable Brands Advisory Board Chair
KoAnn Vikoren Skrzyniarz, Sustainable Brands Founder and CEO**
While telegraphed for days and choreographed down to the military band playing soft jazz in the background before the announcement, President Trump’s June 01, 2017 declaration that the U.S. will pull out of the Paris Agreement still jarred and dismayed.
What the President portrayed as “a reassertion of American sovereignty” is a disappointing and dangerous move that threatens the future wellbeing of the U.S. economy and its citizens, as well as the livelihoods and lives of other peoples worldwide.
While the Paris Agreement commitments and the collaboration and leadership that brought it into being were set back by President Trump’s decision, the facts have not changed. The science behind climate change remains overwhelmingly clear as to the danger posed and regarding humanity’s role in creating it, and we can still choose to do all possible to avert it.
Pushback on POTUS
Remarkably and delightfully, immediately after President Trump’s announcement, people across the U.S. (re-)joined others around the globe in committing to the work necessary to keep global warming below the 2°C increase that scientists warn represents a critical threshold for people and planet. What those voices represent is the certainty that U.S. sovereignty can’t be asserted in a manner that makes it possible to ignore or avoid climate change and its impacts. Instead, the non-participation in the Paris Agreement of the world’s largest historic emitter of greenhouse gas emissions only increases the risks faced here in the U.S. and abroad.
Wonderfully, the overriding lesson of the day proved to be that the Administration’s misguided decision will not deter a considered and proactive climate response from business and civil society leaders in the U.S. Instead, leaders across the country spoke out on the imperative and opportunity of building a low-carbon future. Given SustainAbility and Sustainable Brands' focus on working with business to accelerate the development of a just and sustainable economy and empowering brands to prosper by leading the way to a better world, we were particularly pleased to witness the positions and actions of business and business coalitions, so many of which are determined to fill the leadership void left by the U.S. Government. They proved that pulling out of Paris is not representative of all of us, and that there is a U.S. constituency that will not shirk the climate challenge.
Business Into the Breach
Among the many responses to President Trump that resonated with us were those from Apple, Disney, General Electric, Google, HP, Mars and Tesla. Disney Chairman and CEO Robert Iger and Tesla CEO Elon Musk went so far as to leave Trump’s economic advisory council because of the President’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. They and other CEOs developing the low-carbon product and service innovations they know will be demanded across global markets are making it clear they won’t change those plans.
No Need to Compromise
Existing coalitions already committed to fight climate change such as RE100 and Ceres and WWF’s Low Carbon USA group doubled down, reasserting their determination to act and inviting others to add to their numbers. Mayors and governors – including Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, who outright rebutted the President, and California Governor Jerry Brown, who labeled Trump ‘AWOL’ on climate leadership – asserted they will take their own paths. And the cheekiest, brashest and outright most lovely insubordination of the day was Michael Bloomberg’s resolve to lead a coalition of American cities, states, businesses, universities and more to meet the U.S. commitments under the Paris accord in the wake of – maybe in spite of? – the government’s own abdication.
This U.S. represents the majority of us. It certainly represents SustainAbility and Sustainable Brands.
For our own part, our organizations will continue to help the businesses we work with to address climate change and support climate advocacy. We will applaud and broadcast climate leadership in our publications and on social media. And we will support and back the leadership of others working for a low-carbon future. We urge you and your businesses to do the same. One step to consider is becoming signatory to the We Are Still In commitment, which both of our businesses have done. Or, if you can’t make that decision for your company but want to do something individually, perhaps take at least one action recommended on this Sierra Club list. Or find another way to speak, act and resist that suits you – but do be a part.
The Paris Agreement: Dented, but not broken. Let’s not allow one short-sighted decision to block the progress that is needed and possible.