Nov 23, 2016 by


Change comes from the ground up.1200x-1

Photographer: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

The following is adapted from remarks delivered to the China General Chamber of Commerce.

China is America’s largest trading partner, and the U.S. is the largest partner for China. And while it’s true that our two countries have differences, we know that when we work together, we can accomplish extraordinary things. Cooperation between the U.S. and China, after all, is what made the Paris climate agreement possible.

In the wake of the presidential election, there has been much speculation about whether the U.S. will fulfill the pledges our nation made in Paris. Last week, China’s chief climate negotiator, Minister Xie Zhenhua, said that no matter what the U.S. does, China will remain committed to taking action. That’s a responsible thing to do for the Chinese people and the world.

I can’t tell you what Donald Trump’s administration will do — and in all fairness, they will need time to figure it out themselves. What’s said on the campaign trail is one thing; actually carrying out a specific policy is another. I hope they’ll recognize the importance of the issue. But I am confident that no matter what happens in Washington, no matter what regulations the next administration adopts or rescinds, no matter what laws the next Congress may pass, we will meet the pledges that the U.S. made in Paris.

The reason is simple: Cities, businesses and citizens will continue reducing emissions, because they have concluded — just as China has — that doing so is in their own self-interest.

The U.S.’s success in fighting climate change has never been primarily dependent on Washington. Bear in mind: Over the past decade, Congress has not passed a single bill that takes direct aim at climate change. Yet at the same time, the U.S. has led the world in reducing emissions.

That progress has been driven by cities, businesses and citizens — and none of them are letting up now. Just the opposite: All are looking for ways to expand their efforts. Mayors and local leaders around the country are determined to keep pushing ahead on climate change — because it is in their interest to do so.

Over time, as more and more Americans come to recognize what climate change means to their families and their futures — by seeing the increasingly severe impact of storms, droughts and other weather events — they will demand action from the federal government, too.

But in the meantime, mayors and other local officials will lead the way.

Last June in Beijing, during the U.S.-China Cities Summit on Climate Change, we announced a partnership between the Compact of Mayors and China’s Alliance of Peaking Pioneer Cities. Since then, the Compact of Mayors has joined forces with the European Union’s Covenant of Mayors, making the new Global Covenant of Mayors the single largest and most ambitious coalition of mayors on climate change.

In fact, if the Trump administration does withdraw from the Paris accord, I will recommend that the 128 U.S. mayors who are part of the Global Covenant of Mayors seek to join in its place.

Washington will not have the last word on the fate of the Paris agreement in the U.S. — mayors will, together with business leaders and citizens.

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
David Shipley at

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