Peduto Commits Pittsburgh To Paris Climate Accord, Despite Trump's Decision To Withdraw

Jun 2, 2017

President Donald Trump may not think the Paris Climate Accord is beneficial for the U.S., but Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto says the city is still committed to it.

Peduto issued an executive order Friday pledging to fulfill the city's 2020 and 2030 climate-friendly goals.

"For decades, Pittsburgh has been rebuilding its economy based on hopes for our people and our future, not on outdated fantasies about our past," Peduto said in a statement. "The City and its many partners will continue to do the same, despite the President's imprudent announcements yesterday."

Peduto held court with dozens of press outlets Thursday after Trump used the Steel City as an example for why the U.S. would withdraw, saying "I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris."

“I'm appalled that the President used my city to justify his unacceptable decision, as most other Pittsburghers are," Peduto said. 

In issuing his executive order, Peduto said Pittsburgh will work with other cities on the National Climate Action Agenda, move toward 100 percent renewable energy for municipal operations and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, among other initiatives.

These are things the city has already been tackling, said Chief Resilience Officer Grant Ervin. 

"This is a lot of work that we’ve had underway in terms of addressing climate change and changing, improving the way we offer both local government services, but also how we make the city a more sustainable place," Ervin said.

Trump called the Paris Climate Accord bad for American workers. Some industrial organizations and advocates agreed, praising a potential boon for foreign policy.

David Taylor, president of the Pennsylvania Manufacturer’s Association, said the U.S. was suffering under the Paris Climate Accord because of the regulations it imposed.

“If you’re concerned about climate change or global warming, you’re in the wrong country,” Taylor said. “If people were actually concerned about environmental impacts, they would want all manufacturing worldwide to occur here, rather than in other jurisdictions that are more permissive or who have no rules at all.”

Part of the accord includes provisions that give underdeveloped countries money from developed countries, like the U.S., provided they are making an effort to switch to green energy.

“It’s unfair, it’s unreasonable and it would put our companies, especially the global companies headquartered in Pittsburgh, in a further disadvantage with our international competitors,” Taylor said.

PA Coal Alliance, in a statement, echoed Taylor’s concerns, saying that leaving the accord was “necessary to continue to undo the former Administration’s unilateral agenda, which put America’s competitiveness at risk and threatened energy independence and economic security.”

In 2016, the Maercatus Center at George Mason University released the Federal Regulation and State Enterprise Index, which ranks states based on how much they are impacted by federal regulation. The number is based on regulations’ “relevance to different industries in the economy.” Pennsylvania ranked 36. 

However, local officials say Pittsburgh has profited from clean energy jobs. 

"We’ve seen that in the expansion of the clean tech sector here in Pittsburgh," Ervin said. "We’ve seen that  with the advent in robotics and improvements in our health care system." 

Ervin said it's apparent after Trump's decision, that climate action will be up to cities. 

"One of the things I think the mayor has made pretty clear is this is an opportunity for cities and states to really take action to address the challenges of climate change," Ervin said.

Fulfilling those goals locally will take widespread regional agreement. 

Pennsylvania receives transport pollution from nearly 300 coal-fired power plants in 15 states and the District of Columbia, much of which originates in plants lining the Ohio River for hundreds of miles.

The Heinz Endowments' Breathe Project credits much of that to U.S. Steel's Clairton Coke Works and Shenango Coke Works, which both shuttered last year. Weather and topography -- being situated in a valley or in between mountains -- can also contribute to compounding, year-round particle pollution.