Editorial: Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker takes right step in joining climate alliance

Published: 06-07-2017 8:40 PM

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker took the right action in swiftly joining an alliance of political, academic and business leaders pledging to move the nation toward meeting the commitments made as part of the Paris Climate Agreement.

The day after President Donald Trump announced his decision to pull the United States out of the historic agreement reached in 2015, Baker, a Republican, said, “Our administration looks forward to continued, bipartisan collaboration with other states to protect the environment, grow the economy and deliver a brighter future to the next generation.”

Baker committed Massachusetts to continuing on its path to cutting greenhouse gas emissions by joining the bipartisan United States Climate Alliance, along with the Democratic governors of New York, California and Washington, as well as Republican Gov. Phil Scott of Vermont.

Baker — who did not support Trump during last year’s presidential campaign — made it clear that he did not agree with the president’s decision to quit the Paris agreement. Baker called it wrong for the country and the world, and the governor clearly stated that Massachusetts will remain on course to exceed the requirements of the Paris agreements.

Massachusetts legislation approved in 2008 commits the state to reducing carbon emissions by at least 25 percent below the 1990 level by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050.

The Paris accord called for the United State to voluntarily cut its emissions by between 26 and 28 percent of the 2005 level by 2025. The U.S. was one of 195 countries that were part of the Paris Climate Agreement, and now joins just Nicaragua and Syria as the only nations refusing to take part.

Though the opposition by the Trump administration will make it more difficult for the U.S. to achieve that goal, the nation can still make a substantial dent in reducing greenhouse gas emissions with the commitment by states, cities, corporations and academic institutions to move toward a greener energy economy.

That coalition issued a statement it described as an “open letter to the international community” pledging that “the undersigned mayors, governors, college and university leaders and businesses are joining forces for the first time to declare that we will continue to support climate action to meet the Paris Agreement … It is imperative that the world know that in the U.S., the actors that will provide the leadership necessary to meet our Paris commitment are found in city halls, state capitals, colleges and universities and businesses.”

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Meanwhile, California Gov. Jerry Brown, an unsuccessful presidential candidate in 1992, has become the nation’s unofficial clean-energy statesman. He left Friday for a week of meetings in China with officials concerned about green energy, including an international summit in Beijing. Before leaving, Brown blasted the president: “Donald Trump has absolutely chosen the wrong course. He’s wrong on the facts. America’s economy is boosted by following the Paris Agreement. He’s wrong on the science. Totally wrong. California will resist this misguided and insane course of action. Trump is AWOL but California is on the field, ready for battle.”

Brown and others can play an important role in countering the vacuum left by the Trump administration. David Victor, a professor of international relations at UC San Diego, told the Los Angeles Times: “We traditionally point to Washington as propagating foreign policy. But when Washington leaves the scene on important topics like climate change, others fill in. California gains a much more central role in shaping the U.S. relationship with the rest of the world.”

Also helping to fill that void of leadership are some 180 colleges and universities whose presidents and chancellors signed a pledge to continue working toward the goals of the climate accord. They include the presidents of Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke and Smith colleges, and the chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

“At a time when the White House is promoting an anti-scientific assault on public policy and research, it’s really important for universities and especially university leadership to defend the values that are necessary for us to be institutions of learning,” Michael S. Roth, president of Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, told the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Those values are held by many Americans who are taking a strong stand against Trump’s isolationist view of the United States’ role in the world.