Miami-Dade commissioners on Tuesday endorsed the Paris climate accord, giving the symbolic and explicit backing that the county’s mayor declined to provide after President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the agreement three weeks ago.
“This our affirmation,” said Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava, who sponsored the resolution to support the 2015 agreement and its goal of limiting the planet’s warming to under two degrees Celsius by the end of the century. The slowdown would come from a reduction in greenhouse emissions, the primary culprit in the rising seas already threatening South Florida.
“We’re at the forefront of what’s happening globally,” said Levine Cava, a Democrat. “It’s very important for us to weigh in.”
The resolution adds Miami-Dade to a string of local governments and municipal officials seeking to counter Trump’s rejection of the nonbinding agreement between 195 countries. The legislation also gave Mayor Carlos Gimenez a second chance to publicly back the Paris agreement after gingerly avoiding an outright endorsement after the rejection by Trump, who the mayor is hoping will shepherd billions of dollars in transit funds to Miami-Dade.
On Tuesday, a spokesman answered “yes” when asked if Gimenez — who can veto commission actions — backed Levine Cava’s resolution.
“Mayor Gimenez signed the U.S.-China Climate Leaders Compact in 2015,” said Michael Hernández, Gimenez’s communications director. “Those benchmarks may be more ambitious than the Paris Accord.”
Reporters pressed the Republican mayor on whether he endorsed the Paris agreement after Trump’s June 1 announcement, which fell on the first day of hurricane season. Gimenez declined to answer the questions directly. Instead, he emphasized his commitment to fighting climate change and pointed to the 2015 agreement he signed with mayors in the United States and China in 2015 as part of a summit put on by the Obama administration.
The Obama administration’s agreement with China called for reducing U.S. greenhouse emissions by 25 percent to 28 percent of the country’s 2005 levels by 2025. Obama included roughly the same pledge in the Paris agreement.
After Trump’s announcement, mayors across the country, including in Miami and Miami Beach, endorsed the Paris agreement and said their cities would still pursue the the accord’s goals on pollution reduction. The Pinecrest Village Council also passed a resolution in support of the Paris agreement, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors convenes for its yearly gathering after issuing a string of statements endorsing the accord.
In withdrawing the United States from the Paris accord, Trump said the country should remain “the world’s leader on environmental issues” but said the agreement must be renegotiated into something that “protects our country and its taxpayers.”
Two Republican Miami-Dade commissioners echoed Trump’s criticism and cast the only no votes against the Paris resolution Tuesday. Commissioner Joe Martinez said he supports Miami-Dade wanting to fight climate change, but not through the Obama-era agreement. “I do believe we have issues,” he said. “But when the Paris climate accord was signed, I didn’t believe in it then.”
Chairman Esteban “Steve” Bovo, who also voted no, touched on a parallel Trump move to stop the United States from contributing to a United Nations fund supporting pollution reduction and fighting climate-change impacts in the developing world. The U.S. had contributed about $1 billion to the Green Climate Fund, which has paid for a hydropower plant in the Solomon Islands, restoration of Ugandan wetlands and irrigation systems in northeastern India.
“In symbolically doing this stuff, are we endorsing the $1 billion that goes to India,” Bovo asked. “And if it does, can it come out of Cava’s account?”