As President Donald Trump weighed a possible withdrawal Wednesday from the Paris climate change agreement, California and especially North Coast leaders pushed back, citing the environmental and economic benefits of reducing greenhouses gases while warning of an uncertain future that would come from abandoning the accord.
Trump’s threat to unravel the 2015 pact, which committed nearly every country to take action to curb climate change, drew last-minute appeals from Silicon Valley executives such as Elon Musk of Tesla and Tim Cook of Apple. It also came as Bay Area air quality officials signaled their intent to place caps on oil refinery emissions blamed for pollution and respiratory health problems.
It was clear that although Trump might reverse course on the federal level, state and local players remained committed in their efforts to fight global warming.
“The White House may be going off in one direction to pull out of the Paris compact, but California is clearly going the other way,” said Sonoma County Supervisor Shirlee Zane, a member of the regional air quality board that indicated at a meeting Wednesday it would put future limits on refineries. “We are going to continue to lead as we do now.”
Alternative energy advocates said the state is at the forefront of creating a future without fossil fuels. The booming solar and wind markets are cutting emissions and creating jobs. Electric vehicle charging stations are cropping up across the land.
And utilities such as Sonoma Clean Power, which now has $1 billion in clean energy contracts, are providing customer savings while reducing carbon output over competitors like PG&E.
CEO Geof Syphers said it’s an investment that’s already paying off and should not be stalled at the national level.
He said the United States cannot afford to fall behind other countries that are seizing a larger share of the world’s clean-fuel market.
“It’s a bad call,” Syphers said of Trump’s considering leaving the climate agreement. “If he pulls us out of the Paris accord, we will be right back in as soon as the next president arrives.”
Ann Hancock, executive director of the Center for Climate Protection, a Santa Rosa nonprofit, agreed.
“It’s of critical importance that the U.S. maintain its worldwide leadership on climate and that includes being part of the Paris agreement,” Hancock said. “Even from an economic point of view, it’s the right thing for our national government to do. We don’t want to be dinosaurs.”
Jeff Braverman, a video producer at Jackson Family Wines in Santa Rosa, unplugged his new Ford Fusion from a charging station at work as he contemplated changes posed by Trump.
“It’s horrible, what’s happening,” said the Monte Rio resident. “His stance on the environment is appalling to our country.”
Beyond climate change, abandoning an international partnership could create a destabilizing force that the world has not seen since the runup to World War II, said Ted Eliot, a Sonoma resident and career State Department employee who has worked as a volunteer to preserve open space since the 1980s. U.S. participation in global affairs has largely paved the way for peace and economic growth, he said.
“This takes us back to the 1930s, when the U.S. isolated itself and didn’t become a member of the League of Nations,” said Eliot, a foreign diplomat for 30 years. “This is a terrible signal to the rest of the world.”