Standing in the White House Rose Garden on June 1 — a setting that symbolizes the environment's lush beauty and color — President Trump announced the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate accord.
The decision, seen as deleterious by environmentalists around the world, will make the United States one of only three countries to not participate in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which was developed as a landmark agreement only two years prior. In his speech, Trump credited his decision to his "solemn duty to protect America and its citizens," yet the implications of the deal are not so certain.
Though it is expected to take four years for the United States to fully withdraw from the Agreement, the decision had immediate consequences on the administration, including resignations from advisory council leaders like Elon Musk. Buildings across the world turned green in support of the Paris Agreement, and many leaders took to Twitter and press releases to denounce Trump's decision and stand in solidarity with the world's goal to end climate change. Among these leaders were many waste and recycling professionals.
In a survey conducted during election season, Waste Dive found 67% of readers supported a Hillary Clinton presidency, while 30% of readers supported Trump. While Trump supporters noted his business background and attention to manufacturing, one reader who opposed him wrote: "Environmental protection would be rolled back decades under a Trump presidency."
The decision to exit the Paris Agreement doesn't have a direct or immediate effect on waste and recycling, yet it's clear that these roll backs are important to organizations industrywide. The following announcements were made by waste and recycling groups soon after Thursday's news.
Helen Lowman of Keep America Beautiful
"Behavior change — steeped in education, research and behavioral science — are the cornerstones of Keep America Beautiful. We strive to educate and empower generations of community and environmental stewards with real-world experiences, practical advice, curricula, programs and other resources that help people understand the essentials of proactive community citizenship, including the preservation and conservation of our natural resources and the importance of responsible consumption ... Today, we renew our commitment to work with and help bring together federal, state, county and municipal government leaders — joined by our other partners and millions of volunteers across the country — to advance our fight to End Littering, Improve Recycling and Beautify America's Communities."
Nora Goldstein of BioCycle
"The bottom line is that going into a climate-ignorant cocoon is not just unfortunate for Mother Nature. It's unfortunate for the U.S. economy, and the job-creating opportunities that are imbedded in organics recycling (and related sectors) solutions. It's unfortunate for public health and well-being. The climate-ignorant cocoon may be penny-wise for the fossil fuel sector, but it is Gigaton foolish for humanity, and all the living creatures and ecosystems that support us."
Antonis Mavropoulos of the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA)
"...It demonstrates how vulnerable and politically fragile is a landmark agreement that took many years to be developed. It highlights that the available tools and mechanisms for a global response to planetary challenges are not yet strong enough. It also reminds us that the road towards the implementation of the Paris Accord will be a continuous fight against long-term established interests that still try to dominate our future ... I do hope that this decision will create a new wave of coordinated efforts to implement and stimulate climate adaptation and mitigation measures.
This decision is also a clear sign of the divorce between U.S. climate policy and science. In today’s complex, multipolar and interconnected world, science and scientific analysis remain the key-elements for proper policy making. ISWA, as a scientific organization, will always advocate and contribute to involve more and not less science in public policies and decision making."
"This decision is also a clear sign of the divorce between U.S. climate policy and science."
President, International Solid Waste Association
Governors, others react
Many government leaders also criticized Trump's announcement and took matters into their own hands to solidify environmental commitments. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, California Governor Edmund Brown Jr., and Washington State Governor Jay Inslee announced the formation of the United States Climate Alliance, a coalition to defend states' action against climate change. Additionally, 211 U.S. mayors vowed to "adopt, honor, and uphold the commitments to the goals enshrined in the Paris Agreement."
Even Pittsburgh — a city Trump singled out in his speech by stating, "I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris" — rallied in support of Paris following the decision.
Pittsburghers march for truth, science & with 175 US cities & the world in support of the Paris Agreement pic.twitter.com/NMD0jkgnDv— bill peduto (@billpeduto) June 3, 2017
Defense from the EPA
EPA head Scott Pruitt has confidently defended the President's announcement. "It's a bad deal for this country. We're going to make sure as we make deals we're going to put the interests of America first," he said in an interview with Fox News on Sunday.
Prior to the withdrawal, Trump introduced a budget proposal that reaffirmed plans to cut EPA funding by 31% to $5.65 billion. An EPA press release following the budget announcement ensured the agency's "highest priorities" for "work in infrastructure, air and water quality." In light of Thursday's news, it may take time to outline exactly what this work will look like.