President Trump's announcement that the U.S. is withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord drew swift and strong criticism from environmental advocates from across New York State. And while they praise Governor Andrew Cuomo for his commitment to stay the course on environmental reforms, one organization is warning his efforts, too, could be in jeopardy.
Trump's announcement Thursday means the U.S. will become just the third nation on the planet not to go along with the Accord. The only other nations not to agree to the Accord are Nicaragua and Syria. Nicaraguan officials previously argued that the deal, being voluntary, would not punish the planet's biggest greenhouse gas emitters. Syria, amidst an ongoing civil war and international sanctions, was in a diplomatically impractical position to participate.
Bob Ciesielski, who chairs the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter's energy policy committee, told WBFO the Trump Administration is clearly aligned with the fossil fuel industry but yet many other nations that depend heavily on fossil fuels are still aligned with the Paris agreement.
"Even oil and gas producing countries like Russia or coal-burning countries like China realize that something has to be done," Ciesielski said. "It's almost like we let profits go to the point that we don't care about people or life. That's not right."
While Trump was making his announcement at the White House, Governor Cuomo was signing an executive order confirming New York State's commitment to standards similar to those set within the Paris agreement.
New York's own environmental reforms include a commitment to achieve 50 percent electrical power production by renewable sources by the year 2030.
Former governor David Paterson committed to greenhouse gas reduction goals before the Paris Accord was signed. Under an executive order he signed in 2009, New York committed to a reduction by 80 percent of 1990 emission levels by the year 2050. Under the Paris deal, the U.S. agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025.
Travis Proulx, a spokesman for the Albany-based organization Environmental Advocates of New York, praised Cuomo for his commitment to continue environmental change. But he also noted that Cuomo's efforts are also vulnerable because he has issued executive orders but has not secured policy through legislation. That, Proulx explained, gives a future governor the opportunity to wipe out the state's commitments.
"We risk the exact same situation happening here in New York that we've seen happen to President Obama's legacy on the federal level," Proulx said. "We can't let that happen."
Proulx added that among the many major corporations which urged the Trump Administration to stay in the Paris Accord was ExxonMobil. Ironically, that company remains under investigation by New York and other states, as well as the Securities and Exchange Commission, for allegedly providing misleading information about the impact of its products on climate change.
The company's own shareholders recently voted in favor of ExxonMobil being more forthright with such information.