Former President Barack Obama says cities, states and nonprofit groups have emerged as “the new face of leadership” on climate change.
He briefly spoke Tuesday to a summit of mayors from around the world gathered in Chicago to address concerns about climate change since President Donald Trump rejected the Paris climate accord. The mayors signed a charter that echoes portions of the 2015 Paris agreement.
Obama didn’t mention Trump by name, saying only that the U.S. was in an “unusual” position as the sole country to reject the Paris agreement.
Trump announced earlier this year that the U.S. would pull out of the Paris accord, which involves nations setting benchmarks to reduce emissions of heat-trapping gases. The U.S. won’t technically back out until 2020 because of legal technicalities.
Former President Barack Obama briefly addressed the crowd Tuesday afternoon, following sessions on transportation, energy and waste management for mayors from cities including Paris, Mexico City, San Francisco and Phoenix.
The "Chicago Climate Charter" calls for mayors to achieve a percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions that's equal or more than outlined in the Paris agreement. It also calls for them to work with scientific and academic experts to find solutions.
Some mayors have specifically agreed to commitments to expand public transportation and invest in natural climate solutions such as tree canopy and vegetation.
The commitment to address climate change on a local level comes months after Trump announced the U.S. would pull out of the 2015 Paris Climate accord. The U.S., which can't give notice of its official departure from the landmark agreement until November 2019, is now the only country not part of the Paris climate deal.
Chicago's Chief Sustainability Officer Chris Wheat said the idea is to "fill the void" the Trump administration has left.
"From closing coal plants, to investing in electric vehicles and public transportation, to reducing electricity usage in our buildings, to updating streetlights across the city, Chicago is showcasing to the world the impact that cities can have on climate change for their residents and for people around the world,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement. “I am proud to stand together with the leading global city climate networks including the Global Covenant of Mayors, Climate Mayors and C40 to take decisive action to improve our environment while bettering our communities, and that begins right here.”
In June, Trump announced his decision to abandon the world's climate change pact, claiming the non-binding agreement imposed unfair standards on American businesses and workers. His decision marked a major setback to worldwide efforts to combat climate change and placed the U.S. in opposition to the stance of some of the country's closest foreign allies.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors strongly opposed the decision and vowed that the nation's mayors would continue efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming.
Among those attending the Chicago summit were Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, Mexico City Mayor Miguel Ángel Mancera, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante; Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson; Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton; and dozens of others.