Following President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. out of the anti-greenhouse gas Paris Agreement, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced he and his counterparts in California and Washington State would form the “United States Climate Alliance”—a “forum to sustain and strengthen existing climate programs.”
In perhaps his most strongly-worded anti-Trump statements since the election, Cuomo—seen as a leading contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination—characterized the withdrawal from the multinational plan to curb carbon emissions and contain global temperature change as “reckless.” He announced that he, along with California Gov. Jerry Brown and Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee, would establish the new group to exchange ideas and strategies for preventing and mitigating the tempestuous weather and swelling seas scientists attribute to man-made climate change.
“This administration is abdicating its leadership and taking a backseat to other countries in the global fight against climate change,” Cuomo said in a statement to the press. “We will not ignore the science and reality of climate change.”
The three Democratic governors pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by between a quarter and third by 2025, and to uphold the the goals of former President Barack Obama’s “Clean Power Plan.” Trump signed an executive order in March calling on the Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider the latter set of regulations on fossil fuel pollution, and to end the federal government’s court battle against West Virginia, which sued to prevent the rules from going into effect.
The Clean Power Plan aimed to slash carbon dioxide output from power plants by almost a third over the next 25 years, mostly by reducing reliance on coal. Trump has asserted that such policies, like the Paris Accord, harm American workers—particularly miners in struggling areas of Appalachia.
The president has in the past asserted that climate change is a hoax fabricated by the Chinese government. However, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson signed an international agreement last month that insisted on the importance of addressing the phenomenon.
“The president has already said climate change is a hoax, which is the exact opposite of virtually all scientific and worldwide opinion,” Brown said in the release. “I don’t believe fighting reality is a good strategy—not for America, not for anybody. If the president is going to be AWOL in this profoundly important human endeavor, then California and other states will step up.”
The governors noted that their states collectively contain roughly 20 percent of the U.S population and gross domestic product. It is unclear exactly what the new Climate Alliance will do other than allow for sharing of best practices, though the release appeared to leave open the possibility of coordinated action between the three states.
“Today’s announcement by the president leaves the full responsibility of climate action on states and cities throughout our nation,” said Inslee. “While the president’s actions are a shameful rebuke to the work needed to protect our planet for our children and grandchildren, states have been and will continue to step up.”
Cuomo also signed an executive order that appeared to mainly outline and reaffirm an array of programs the Empire State has already pursued, though it called on all agencies to provide a report on the implementation of these policies by the end of next March.
The terms of the Paris Agreement prevent countries from withdrawing before November 2019, and the secession process will take another year—placing it after the next presidential election.