Two years and some months ago, Climate Generation staff and 10 Education Ambassadors were in Paris, holding their breath and alive with anticipation for the imminent release of the first international accord to unite the global community around climate action. When 194 countries unanimously voted to make the Paris Agreement a reality, the world appeared to be at a turning point in its efforts to address climate change. It seemed, finally, that we were beginning to take actions commensurate with the scale of the threat. Witnessing this history in the making was a life-changing experience for our delegation, as it must have been for all involved. What’s more, it promised to change the lives of many millions more – of frontline communities vulnerable to sea-level rise, drought, and other climate threats; of future generations who now inherited a better prospect for a livable planet.
Since then, much has happened. Climate action ramped up at all scales and in all sectors. Leading up to and beyond COP21, the actions of states, cities, businesses and individuals have been critical in showing the world that we are up to the task of realizing a zero-carbon, 100% clean energy future. We have also seen the ripple effects created by the Paris Agreement in the actions of our supporters and Education Ambassadors. Lauren Leith has worked to put solar panels on her St. Paul school. Billy Koenig became a teacher at the School of Environmental Studies, to put his passion for environmental education at the forefront of his teaching. Peter Johnson has hosted several presentations on climate change in his Pine Island, MN community.
The 2016 U.S. elections were a wake-up call. In the election of Trump, we heard loud and clear that climate action, in reality, faces daunting obstacles: monied interests intent on maintaining their power and profits at the expense of our collective future. Yet despite this setback, the movement of people for justice, for environmental preservation, and for an inclusive vision of society showed its strengths in the intervening months. The resistance was, and is, fierce. People took to the streets, businesses stepped up their commitments, and local governments increased their clean energy pledges. The April 29 People’s Climate March turned out hundreds of thousands, a powerful reminder that the climate movement is not going away; indeed it is stronger, more diverse, and more resilient than ever. Here again, our Education Ambassadors showed up, as they have continued to do, to keep up the call for a climate-resilient future.
Today’s decision by President Trump to withdraw the U.S. from the historic Paris Agreement is a blow. We are disheartened, disbelieving, and furious that such a brash and reckless action has been taken. However, this agreement has always been about more than just country-level actions. Since our efforts to help forge the Paris Agreement, the U.S. has definitively shown itself capable of bold climate action at all scales and in all places of our country – as Atlanta, GA’s, Madison, WI’s and Columbia, SC’s recent commitments to 100% clean energy indicate. What’s more, people we have engaged in climate change solutions are scaling up their actions and leadership, since they know that we as a generation must shoulder that responsibility. We must all step up to fill the void in U.S. leadership on this issue, because that is what this moment demands of us; this will be our defining legacy. We are confident that we can rise to this challenge, because the work we see being done every day by climate leaders in MN and beyond continues to sustain us in that hope.
We are committed to working with you, and with anyone of any background or political persuasion, to advance climate change solutions. As we noted the day after the election, our door is always open and we want to hear from you.
Let’s do this. Let’s move forward together.
-The Climate Generation team