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Michigan mayors vow to uphold Paris Agreement in wake of U.S. abandonment

Jun 2, 2017

Story updated June 9 at 2:07 p.m.

In the wake of President Trump leaving the Paris Climate Agreement, several dozen mayors across the U.S. have created a coalition to uphold the goals of the accord in their own cities. Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, and Traverse City represent Michigan on the list.

The officials are calling themselves "U.S. Climate Mayors," and they are strongly opposed to the president's policies on conservation and climate change. Outside of Michigan, the mayors of large cities like Los Angeles, Boston, and New York have signed the coalition.

Maria Carmen Lemos is a researcher at the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments, where she's an expert on environmental policymaking. She thinks by joining the U.S. Climate Mayors, these Michigan cities are reaffirming their preexisting commitments to fighting climate change.

"I think in concrete terms, they are already engaged in a lot of action, and this is just a signal that they'll continue to be engaged in those actions," Lemos said.

Richard Rood is a professor of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering at the University of Michigan. He thinks the U.S. pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement has a large impact for the rest of the world.

"Withdrawing has profound effects on the United States in terms of if we're considered a reliable partner in the community of nations," Rood said. "It also isolates us and puts a barrier between the United States and being at the table when new international climate policy or economic development is negotiated."

However, he says localities have historically addressed climate change in their communities independent of the federal government.

"There are a number of coalitions of mayors and coalitions of cities that have really been the backbone of climate change activity in the United States," Rood said.

Barry Rabe, professor of public policy at the University of Michigan, agrees.

"Part of the reduction of fossil fuel use in the past few years has been due to what individual states and localities have been able to do," he says.

Lemos, Rood, and Rabe agree that it's difficult to say how Michigan will be directly impacted by the U.S. pulling out of the Paris Agreement. However, President Trump's proposed slashing of the Environmental Protection Agency budget has already raised concerns among Michigan residents

Lemos is optimistic that individuals will work harder to combat climate change in their own communities.

"On the individual level, being conscious of what we do and how we use resources, is something that's within our own decision making, no government can tell you what to do with that," Lemos said. "Getting involved in local initiatives is something that anyone can do as well."

Since the publication of this story, the following Michigan cities have also joined the agreement: Buchanan, Detroit, East Lansing, Eden Prairie, Ferndale, Flint, Hamtramck, Kalamazoo, Lansing, Royal Oak, and Ypsilanti.