Two years ago, One Young World Ambassadors from 196 countries joined their voices calling for their country’s leaders to deliver an urgent and binding agreement to tackle climate change at COP21. Weeks later the negotiation of the Paris Agreement, promised to deliver the global action they and the world’s youth called for. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the agreement is a significant blow to the hopes of young people who will inherit a world defined by the actions today’s leaders take on climate.
Central to Trump’s justification for withdrawal is the perceived threat the agreement poses to American jobs. This claim was made despite the United States’ largest employers urging the President to stick with the accords in an open letter backed by 30 top corporate executives including ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods.
Reacting to the news, Unilever CEO and One Young World Counsellor pointed to the economic advantages of climate action under the Paris framework tweeting:
#ParisAgreement = huge economic opportunity. Inaction is existential threat. No turning back. Business must lead.— Paul Polman (@PaulPolman) June 2, 2017
NASA Astronaut and Counsellor Ron Garan penned a letter to President Trump expressing the reversal will harm the country’s long-terms interests rather than ‘protect America and its citizens’, writing:
“Special interest fueled, short-sighted, selfish rhetoric and politics are trading our future well-being for a temporary market bump. We are on the wrong side of history.”
Trump’s decision has galvanised fresh commitment to multilateralism and cooperation across the world, with shows of confidence that nations, cities and communities will overcome this setback and lead the way forward.
One Young World Counsellor and UN Envoy on Climate Change, Mary Robinson, reaffirmed that the fight against climate change is ‘well underway’, even in the US itself, stating:
“The Trump administration’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement will not stop climate action in the United States. At state level, in cities, in businesses and communities around the country the move away from fossil fuels is well underway. We encourage all actors in the US working to tackle climate change to stand their ground, share the benefits of their work and to keep making their voices heard.”
Seventh Secretary General of the United Nations and One Young World Counsellor, Kofi Annan shared the same optimism despite the damage the agreement has now incurred. Despite believing “climate change is the greatest existential threat of our time”, he expressed:
“No one country can dismantle the Agreement. While the US withdrawal weakens that international accord, it will not trigger its demise.”
During President Trump’s press conference announcing the US’s withdrawal, he stated, “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.” Mayor of One Young World 2012’s Host City, Bill Peduto, expressed “outrage” at the comment, responding:
As the Mayor of Pittsburgh, I can assure you that we will follow the guidelines of the Paris Agreement for our people, our economy & future. https://t.co/3znXGTcd8C— bill peduto (@billpeduto) June 1, 2017
As part of Climate Mayors, Mayor Peduto is one of 82 city heads representing 39 million Americans who will “adapt, honor and uphold” their commitment to achieving the targets set in the Paris Agreement.
Last month, One Young World, UN Foundation, Global Citizen, Sierra Club, Earth Day Network and the UN Association for the USA sent a letter with over 65,000 signatures from Americans to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urging the US to remain part of the treaty.
Despite the letter falling on deaf ears, One Young World urges young leaders worldwide to continue to call for and deliver the climate action needed to protect our futures.