Will the Real Climate Leaders Please Stand Up?

Where Trump has failed Americans, local governments and businesses are rising to the occasion.

June 02, 2017

California Governor Jerry Brown, COP21 President Ségolène Royal, Washington Governor Jay Inslee, and former Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin. Brown, Inslee, and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently announced the formation of the U.S. Climate Alliance.

COP Paris/Flickr

On June 1, President Trump announced that the United States will withdraw from the Paris climate change agreement. He made the announcement in the White House Rose Garden, a beautiful setting for an ugly stream of falsehoods that betrayed a fundamental misunderstanding of the climate accord, the economy, and, well, pretty much everything. (To quote OutKast, “Lean a little bit closer, see that roses really smell like poo-poo-oo.”)

If you missed the 30-minute-plus speech (in which case I envy you), here’s a taste:

  • Trump said he would try to renegotiate the treaty.
    Not gonna happen. Christiana Figueres, the former executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, had some strong words on the subject. “Apparently the White House has no understanding of how an international treaty works. There is no such thing as withdrawing and then negotiating,” she said, adding that the move was nothing but a “vacuous political melodrama.”
  • He called the Paris agreement “nonbinding” and “draconian” . . . in the same sentence.
    To be clear, the accord is nonbinding, one of the reasons why Nicaragua refused to join it. Paul Oquist, who led Nicaragua’s delegation at the Paris summit in 2015, argued that the deal doesn’t go far enough to protect the planet and lets rich countries off too easy. Meanwhile, Nicaragua, which contributes 0.03 percent to global emissions, is on track to get 90 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2020. (Syria is the only other nation not to join the deal.)
  • He explicitly threw poor countries under the bus.
    Adding insult to injury, Trump said that the United States will cease contributing to the Green Climate Fund, which helps developing countries finance projects to fight climate change. His claim that the GCF is costing “a vast fortune” doesn’t hold water—President Obama pledged $3 billion to the fund, $1 billion of which has already been donated. Reminder: The United States is the richest country in the world and responsible for 15 percent of global emissions.
  • He lauded “coal” eight times and never once mentioned “climate change” or “global warming.”
    Once more for the people in the back of the room: Coal isn’t coming back. Renewables, on the other hand, are booming.
  • He said, “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.”
    Pittsburgh, which overwhelmingly voted for Hillary Clinton, was quick to distance itself from Trump, pointing out that actually, it’s going to stick with Paris.
  •  He quoted a Wall Street Journal editorial: “The United States under the Trump administration will continue to be the cleanest and most environmentally friendly country on earth.”

To say Americans are not happy with Trump’s decision is an understatement. The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication found that 69 percent of registered U.S. voters think the country should stay in the Paris Agreement, including a majority in every single state.

Thankfully, there’s no way in climate change hell that other world leaders, American cities and states, and U.S. businesses are going to let Trump have the final say about our collective future.

The following true leaders have pledged to forge ahead with climate action despite the negative press covfefe Trump’s ineptitude:


  • Literally every other country in the world minus Syria. (French president Emmanuel Macron even released a video en anglais with the baller parting shot: “Make our planet great again.”)

U.S. States

  •  California, Washington, and New York, which collectively are home to about one-fifth of the U.S. population, immediately announced the formation of the United States Climate Alliance.

U.S. Cities

  • 338 mayors, representing 65 million Americans (and yes, Pittsburgh, too) pledged to “adopt, honor, and uphold the commitments to the goals enshrined in the Paris Agreement.”

U.S. Businesses

  • Amazon, Apple, Ben & Jerry's, Facebook, Google, IBM, Lyft, Mars, Incorporated, Microsoft, Netflix, NIKE, REI, Patagonia, Starbucks, Target, Twitter. . .you know what, there are too many to list. You can check them out here.

U.S. Colleges and Universities


  • Michael Bloomberg pledged $15 million to help make up the amount the United Nations stands to lose from D.C.’s pullout. The former mayor of New York City also told the New York Times that an unnamed group of mayors, governors, university presidents, and businesses plans to submit its own pledge to the United Nations.

Bonus Critiques

  • Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein used his first-ever Tweet to slam the decision.
  • Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk and Disney CEO Bob Iger both quit Trump’s business advisory panel in protest.
  • Barack Obama issued a scathing statement that uses the phrase “absence of American leadership” in lieu of Trump’s name. 

We’ll update this list as others join.

onEarth provides reporting and analysis about environmental science, policy, and culture. All opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of NRDC. Learn more or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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