On June 1st, President Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement. This reckless decision signaled to the rest of the world that the U.S. is not a reliable leader and keeps us marching on a path toward climate chaos.
Fortunately, young people, advocates, and local elected officials have stepped up around the country to spearhead climate action in the wake of the federal government’s abdication of leadership. Over 1,000 cities, counties, states, universities, and businesses have signed onto a letter declaring their commitment to the agreement. Mayor Catherine Pugh signed Baltimore onto the letter, and the City Council strengthened Baltimore’s commitment to climate action this week.
On June 19th, the Baltimore City Council adopted a resolution upholding the commitments of the Paris Climate Agreement. Councilman Zeke Cohen of Baltimore’s 1st District engaged over fifteen partners, including the Maryland Environmental Health Network, Baltimore Beyond Plastic, and CCAN, to collaborate on the resolution. In addition to recognizing the significance of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement and opposing the U.S.’s withdrawal from it, the resolution commits Baltimore City to specific actions that will work to prevent the worst impacts of climate change and address environmental injustices in the city.
The best part about this resolution is how intersectional and localized it is. Not only does it call for emissions reductions, the resolution also outlines how food deserts, energy affordability, zero waste strategies, sewage and stormwater infrastructure, community land trusts, equitable public transit, and more are all connected to climate change.
Critically, the resolution centers equity. It pledges to uphold practices that foster “a liveable, economical, equitable, and just energy future for all Baltimoreans regardless of age, race, income, or zip code” and acknowledges that, “climate change impacts are felt first and worst by vulnerable populations which exacerbates inequity.” It goes on to state, “we reject treating people and the planet as resources to be exploited.”
Before the City Council voted on the resolution on Monday night, the youth-led group Baltimore Beyond Plastic led a rally in support of the resolution. These young activists, who have been working tirelessly for a styrofoam ban in Maryland, refused to accept that Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Agreement and worked closely with Councilman Cohen to ensure that the Council passed the strongest repudiation possible.
While this resolution is non-binding, it creates a blueprint for climate action in Baltimore. And since it passed unanimously, we can now hold every councilmember accountable to the actions outlined in the resolution (including limits on crude-by-rail infrastructure!) and work to pass legislation that will codify many of its stated commitments.