Communities Commit to Going Green Without Paris Accord

Joining in solidarity – and defiance

On Thursday, June 1st, President Trump stated that the United States would be pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord. While this process would take upwards of five years, it did not stop cities, states, and companies all over the nation from joining in solidarity by vowing that they would uphold the tenets of the Paris Agreement even if Trump didn’t. At the time of writing this article, 30 mayors, 3 governors, 80 university presidents, and more than 100 businesses are collaborating to submit their own plan to the United Nations in accordance with the Paris Agreement. Their plan reaffirms that they will make a strident effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by using more environmentally friendly business practices.

Climate change hits low-income communities the hardest

From a very basic standpoint, the effects of climate change will eventually impact our health- it impedes our access to clean drinking water, non-polluted air, and food. However, some groups are affected more than others, especially low-income communities and marginalized groups. Residents of low-income communities more than likely already have limited access to healthcare, so if they do get sick, it’s harder to get help. If natural disaster strikes (like a flood, perhaps) they probably wouldn’t have the funds needed to relocate to a safer area. These areas are vulnerable because they are disproportionately affected by climate change than other, more affluent, areas.

In states such as Utah, global warming has already had a harmful influence on the quality of their water supply, which again could affect low-income individuals within the community. From a social marketing perspective, it is the upstream influencers such as policymakers or legislators who can put a plan in motion to improve life for low-income individuals who may be impacted by climate change.

How can local community development groups work to go green even without federal regulation?

Both cities and states have many ways to integrate “green” building practices into their development efforts. The majority include partnering with local manufacturing, utility, and construction companies to integrate energy efficient practices into developments. Some of the strategies that seem to be most feasible for community development include increasing access to renewable energy and building rapid transit programs. Rapid transit could accomplish multiple goals: it could provide a reliable form of transportation for low-income individuals, and encourage the practice of using public transportation rather than driving, reducing the overall carbon emissions from vehicles on the road.

Mahesh Ramanujam, President and CEO of the United States Green Building Council, recently wrote a blog highlighting the importance of building sustainable communities, in “the places where America happens”. He makes a great point: change starts with real people, making real changes in their daily lives. It means working towards developing sustainable community centers, homeless shelters, and assisted housing. It also means working towards improving our stance on climate change to help those already vulnerable communities who are hit the hardest.

Trump may have pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord, but the majority of America did not. Hopefully, this integral point in international diplomacy could ignite a widespread movement to embrace sustainable practices in communities all over the United States.