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    What Paris Pullout Means for Philly: The Good, Bad & Ugly

    Despite science practically screaming at us that our planet is in dire need of change, Trump foolheartedly announced that the US will pull out of the Paris Climate Accord yesterday.

    (Didn’t anyone tell Trump the pullout method doesn’t work?!)

    TL: DR version of Paris Agreement: In December 2015, world leaders met in Paris, France to talk about climate change for COP 21. On April 22, 2016, 195 countries have signed the agreement (147 countries having ratified), with the exceptions of Syria (in a civil war) and Nicaragua (Nicaragua thought the plan was only voluntary and didn’t do enough). The overall goal of the agreement is to limit the global average temperature to no more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit to 1850-1900 levels, before industrial times. Some Philly Paris attendees didn’t think those goals were ambitious enough for the US either.

    Each country signed on different targets of how they’d make this climate fetch happen.

    The Obama Administration / Federal government created the Clean Power Plan  (according to Obama) to implement to Paris agreement and reduce our US greenhouse gas emissions by 26% to 28% by 2025 (baseline 2005). The U.S. also pledged $3 billion to the Green Climate Fund to help developing countries adapt and mitigate practices to fight climate change.


    If you wondered how to simultaneously piss off the world at once, marvel at yesterday’s events.

    World leaders are furious. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said the agreement couldn’t be renegotiated. Macron offered refugee status in France. (Bonjour we’ll take it!) Japanese Environment Minister Koichi Yamamoto said he was disappointed AND angry. Even Russia isn’t budging from the agreement.

    (Almost) the entire world finally agreed on one of the most pressing issues of our lifetime. Beyond a collective sigh heard around the world, US business community also expressed disappointment. Major companies including Apple, BP (oil!), Google, Microsoft, Shell (oil!!) sent Trump a letter to keep the Paris Pact. Elon Musk & Disney CEO Robert Iger are leaving the White House Advisory Council due to the move.

    TL: DR: This is very, very bad.

    The Ugly

    “The abandoning of the Clean Power Plan means that the biggest lever beyond our control at the local government level is not being pulled at all.” – Sarah Wu

    How does a Paris exit affect us on a local level?

    Philadelphia (or any city) can’t combat climate change in a silo and is dependent on federal regulations for maximum effects. Abandoning the Clean Power Plan means that although Philadelphia can increase its energy efficiency, it’s still reliant on the grid mix on a federal level.

    We asked Deputy Director of the Office of Sustainability (City of Philadelphia) Sarah Wu about what the Paris agreement meant for Philly. As Wu mentioned, “Our work is less effective because at a local level, our grid is less effective.”

    (pssst Sidebar: What is the grid?)

    All of our energy comes from one power grid filled with energy from natural gas, coal, wind, solar and nuclear. The grid runs through transmission lines (450,000+ miles) to deliver energy to your home. The grid has to match supply with demand, so the grid has to produce energy when people need it (otherwise, blackouts). In Philadelphia, the majority of our grid comes from nukes and coal.

    The Clean Power Plan tried to get us away from dirty energy to more clean energy. Right now, it’s driven by price. And guess what – dirty energy tends to be cheaper than clean (wind/solar) because of fossil fuel subsidies.

    TL: DR: The federal government can influence where our grid energy comes from, and we need more solar/wind than fossil fuel energy to combat climate change.

    The Good

    Usually in reports, one starts with the good. But this is 2017.

    “The lowest hanging fruit is no longer available because of the federal vacuum of leadership, but the local and state levels are willing to leapfrog to do the work.” – Sarah Wu

    Although the federal government leaves a gap in these plans, the local and state level are stepping up in larger ways. Yesterday, the City of Philadelphia issued a press release saying that although the federal government has withdrawn from the Paris Agreement, Philadelphia is committed to meeting the carbon emission reduction targets in Philadelphia.

    “President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement goes against the interests of Philadelphians. My administration is now committed to upholding at the local level the very same commitment made by the United States in the Paris climate agreement — to reduce carbon emissions between 26 and 28 percent by 2025.  This will ensure that we’re well on our way to meeting Philadelphia’s current long-term goal of reducing the city’s emissions 80 percent by 2050.” – Mayor Jim Kenney

    Mayor Kenney signed onto its Climate Mayors agreement – the national climate agenda of 61 mayors (representing 36 million Americans) who are committed to fulfilling the Paris Climate accord at a local level. “It’s just clear that there’s a large swath of America that understand the importance of this agreement,” according to Wu.

    Philly ain’t stopping our green goals

    On a local level, the city has ambitious goals and will continue its progress. Philadelphia will continue its Greenworks plan to reduce carbon pollution and alleviate the effects of climate change. The Office of Sustainability is soon debuting a municipal Energy Master Plan and Citywide Energy Vision to reduce city buildings emissions (as much as 79%)! Nic Esposito is leading the Zero Waste Cabinet to get Philly to zero waste by 2035.

    Let’s be clear: we still need the federal government involvement to do the work and set a precedent. But that won’t halt progress at lower levels altogether.


    Don’t let a Facebook post be the end of your reaction to 45’s Paris pull out. You should be pissed, angry, upset, sad and confused by what’s happening on a federal level – and emphasizing the enormity of Trump’s actions is important. But don’t let it stop there. On an individual level, you can take action.

    You can choose when you use energy. Run power when there is less demand; for example, running your dishwasher at night is better than a high demand time like noon. (For example, go back to the earlier Grid explanation. Timing really does help!) Sarah Wu charges her Electric Vehicle (EV) at night. (Also, can we say how much cooler Sarah Wu is for having an EV?!?)

    Switch your energy supplier from a renewable source! We have an easy guide for you with the best choices. (Full disclaimer: we currently have a banner sponsored by Inspire Energy at the top of our website, which is one option.)

    In addition to powering your home (indirectly) with wind or solar, using renewable energy sends a larger message. As Wu said, “(Choosing a clean energy supplier) sends a market signal that there is demand for cleaner power generation.

    Call your representative. While a lot of the Paris Agreement was symbolic, your legislators will be making real-life policy decisions in Congress. You need to continue to fight for a clean future.

    Want to hear more about energy efficiency and how to fight climate change on a local level? Join our next Beyond the Blog panel discussion on Energy Efficiency on June 27th. (Sidenote: We’ve been planning this for months; with no idea it would be so timely!)

    Julie Hancher

    About Julie Hancher

    Julie Hancher is Editor-in-Chief of Green Philly, sharing her expertise of all things sustainable in the city of brotherly love. She enjoys long walks in the park with local beer and greening her travels, cooking & cat, Sir Floofus Drake.

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