Charleston Post and Courier
June 5, 2017
By Abigail Darlington
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In defiance of President Donald Trump’s announcement last week to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, local and state leaders across the country are pledging to carry out the goals of the international pact to fight climate change.
Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg, Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin and Anderson Mayor Terence Roberts signed the statement that supports ambitious goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.
Harris Pastides, president of the University of South Carolina, and Elizabeth Davis, president of Furman University, are among the other names and entities from the Palmetto State that support the landmark agreement. The list is compiled at wearestillin.com.
“We, the undersigned mayors, governors, college and university leaders, and businesses are joining forces for the first time to declare that we will continue to support climate action to meet the Paris Agreement,” the signed statement said Monday.
Conservation groups around the state were encouraged by the show of solidarity.
“South Carolina’s coast is uniquely vulnerable to sea level rise … so it’s important for leaders like Mayor Tecklenburg to step up,” said Alan Hancock, spokesman for the Coastal Conservation League.
This isn’t the first time Tecklenburg has opposed Trump’s policies on the environment. In April, he held a press conference with other local mayors to renounce Trump’s executive order that could open South Carolina’s coast to offshore oil drilling.
The city also hired a new resiliency director, Mark Wilbert, earlier this year to help lead the process of implementing the city’s Sea Level Rise Strategic Plan.
“Regardless of any national or international debates, the facts on the ground here in Charleston are clear: the sea is getting higher, weather events are becoming more extreme, and flooding has increased across most areas of the city,” city spokesman Jack O’Toole said in a written statement. “In short, the City is committed to making resilience and sustainability a basic part of everything we do.”
In Columbia, Benjamin has announced plans to transition the city to 100 percent renewable energy by 2035, and he will encourage cities across the country to adopt similar plans at the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Miami later this month.
John Tynan of the Conservation Voters of South Carolina said local and state governments already have the most impact on environmental protection issues.
“From a clean energy perspective, these are the perfect places to be breaking new ground and moving forward to really make a difference,” he said.
Blan Holman, managing attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, agreed.
“Seeing mayors and companies across the country step up, I think underlines the majority view that we need to do something about this,” he said.
The S.C. Small Business Chamber of Commerce, which represents 5,000 members of the state’s business community, also supports the initiative.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster and U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott, all Republicans, have sided with Trump on withdrawing from the pact.