By Rachel Kyte is Chief Executive Officer of Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL), and Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All.
SEforALL Note: This post was originally published on June 2 2017 by Reuters and can be found here
Trump cannot slow the powerful clean energy transition that's already underway in the United States and around the world
By withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement, President Trump has not only created a damaging legacy that will impact the most vulnerable communities around the world, he’s hurting Americans, including those who voted him into office.
Yet, he cannot slow the powerful clean energy transition that is already underway in the United States and around the world.
Due to a mixture of market forces and political leadership, the world is moving away from harmful, carbon-heavy fossil fuels, and increasingly investing in clean and efficient energy. This shift is unstoppable. The evidence is everywhere - from Iowa to India, California to China.
Let’s start with China and India, the world’s two most populous countries, both speeding ahead of their own targets for wind and solar energy. Last month, new research showed that both countries are on track to beat their carbon emissions goals under the Paris Agreement, as they shed their reliance on coal faster than expected.
Now let’s look at the United States.
All across the country, the remarkable growth of clean energy is clear. Three states, including California, North Dakota and Oklahoma, already produce 20 percent of their power from wind and solar energy. In another three - Iowa, South Dakota and Oklahoma - it’s more than 30 percent.
Strikingly, this trend transcends politics. Of the top 10 states for renewable energy production, five are Republican and five Democrat.
This clean energy shift is also creating good jobs, something that President Trump campaigned on and would presumably support.
In 2016, solar energy created U.S. jobs at 17 times the rate of the U.S. economy overall. Twice as many Americans now work in the wind industry as in coal mining, with most of them in “Wind Alley” states like Texas, Iowa and Kansas.
These are the jobs that young Americans want and need.
Corporate America is also committed to climate action because of the opportunities, as well as the risks of not being able to compete in a hyper-efficient, clean global economy. More than 1,000 U.S. companies, including dozens of Fortune 500 firms, publicly called on President Trump not to undermine long-term economic growth and competitiveness by withdrawing from the Paris Agreement.
Seventy-five U.S. mayors also wrote to the President encouraging him to uphold the U.S. commitment to the global accord as they fight to attract the businesses of tomorrow, keep their air clean and build their resilience to increasingly volatile weather.
Even more importantly, beyond state capitols and city halls, in factories and nurses’ offices, in classrooms and community rooms, and in churches, mosques and synagogues, Americans are taking action.
TRUMP SUPPORTERS TO LOSE
Yet President Trump has chosen to ignore the American people, the majority of whom, in all states, support climate action, and has abdicated America’s leadership.
In doing so, he jeopardizes the speed and scale with which new jobs, economic growth and healthy communities can be built in the United States, and threatens to slow the collective progress of other countries all dependent on the same planet.
Ironically, some of the biggest losers will be Americans who supported him. Walking away from the Paris Agreement does nothing to help communities who are struggling as the world moves away from fossil fuels, especially coal. They need to be supported to chart their future with investment in new skills and new livelihoods.
By breaking America’s promise to its children and grandchildren, which was embedded in the Paris Agreement, with a false promise to the proud coal communities of this country, the President is committing one of the most short-sighted and disingenuous acts of political cowardice we have seen.
The administration’s calls for slashing climate and clean energy research is another body blow to the American public. By reducing these investments, the United States is giving away breakthroughs to other countries that will fill the political and technological void – and reap the economic and competitive benefits that come with leading in the low-carbon global economy.
Mayors, governors, religious leaders, CEOs and some in Congress are now stepping to the forefront, taking up the mantle of leadership for the United States. But as a nation, this is a devastatingly sad moment for a country that has long led the world on its biggest challenges, and will now leave its own people behind.