SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Under the glaring lights of a small stage in the Moscone Center in San Francisco on Thursday, the governors of four states – California, Hawaii, Connecticut and Washington – reaffirmed their commitment to fighting climate change and made a host of ambitious promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“If man is going to destroy our fellow man it is going to be either by nuclear proliferation or by ignoring the simple reality that our weather is getting warmer and is going to overwhelm us. We need to do everything within our powers to make sure we turn bad policy back, or at least hold our own,” said Governor Dannel Malloy of Connecticut.
Malloy, California Governor Jerry Brown, Governor David Ige of Hawaii and Governor Jay Inslee of Washington state represent a broader coalition of 17 governors across the country called the U.S. Climate Alliance. The coalition came after President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the international Paris Agreement, a landmark pact to reduce carbon emissions worldwide.
The governors promised to uphold the U.S. part of the agreement in place of the Trump administration.
“We need to stand up and make it very clear the U.S. can honor our international agreements with or without this president’s approval,” Malloy said.
They spoke as part of the Global Climate Action Summit hosted by Brown, where climate activists, thinkers and world leaders have gathered to organize a worldwide assault on global warming. It has also turned into a platform to attack Trump and his climate policies, or lack thereof.
“We make sure the world understands we are still in the Paris Agreement, that there is still intelligent life in the United States,” said Inslee on the formation of the U.S. Climate Alliance. “Obviously, when the leader of the free world announces he is going to pull out of an international agreement, there could be a concern that the rest of the world has followed him. That has not happened. No one has followed Trump’s sinking ship over the cliff of climate denial.”
He added: “The climate denial of Donald Trump has been focused on fear, that if we beat climate change we could not grow our economies. The climate alliance has blown up that myth. The states in the U.S. Climate Alliance have had greater economic growth than the states that are not yet joining us.”
Inslee said he is confident that more governors will join the alliance, especially after the midterm elections.
The governors on Thursday also touted a pact the alliance just formed with Canada and Mexico to reduce carbon emissions across North America 50 percent by 2025 across. They also plan to phase out coal power, push the use of electric vehicles, restore marine ecosystems and share information on scientific progress toward clean energy.
“We want to make electric cars available to everyone and create an environment where one would be embarrassed not to have an electric vehicle,” Malloy said.
Brown kept his remarks short, saying, “This summit is advancing the cause so more people are aware, get it, and resolve to take whatever action they can. We need the federal government, we need the president of the United States, but in the meantime, we’re going to build momentum. Let’s get at it.”
While Brown has received much praise for hosting the first international climate event in support of the Paris Agreement, throngs of raucous protesters took to the streets in downtown San Francisco pm Thursday morning to blast the governor for not doing enough to reduce California’s oil dependence. They also accused him of being in league with the oil industry.
“We’re moving in the same direction as the critics,” Brown said in response to reporter questions about the protest. “They just want us to go a little faster, and we want to go a little faster ourselves.”
He pointed out California has reduced its oil production by 17 percent, though consumption of oil has gone up 4 percent during his 8-year tenure.
“We have to replace fossil fuel vehicles with hydrogen or electric,” he said.
When asked how he could call himself a climate change leader while accepting millions from the oil industry, Brown said that’s simply how politics works.
“Politics runs on money. Billions of dollars. All of these people are in the industry, that’s part of what it is. In the world of dreams, you can do a lot of things. In the world of practicality, there’s a way it works,” Brown said.
“The people who are protesting don’t need to raise money, but there is a lot of dark money there.”