STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
Students had prepared Wednesday to attempt to persuade Gov. Charlie Baker to speak out in support of the Paris climate change agreement. Instead, they ended up visiting his office to thank him for his support.
Representatives from youth climate groups had announced plans on Tuesday to visit the State House to ask Baker to join 12 other governors in signing a letter urging that the United States remain a part of the Paris agreement. Less than five hours before they arrived, Baker announced he had sent his own message.
Baker and Vermont Gov. Phil Scott sent a letter to the Trump administration Wednesday “urging them to continue the United States’ commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement,” according to Baker’s office.” Baker and Scott describe themselves in the letter as “the Republican governors of states that have taken a leadership role in combating climate change.”
“The impacts of climate change have already been felt in our states. We have seen the impacts of rising sea levels, increasingly severe flooding, heat waves, droughts, and decline in snow cover,” Baker and Scott wrote to Energy Secretary Rick Perry. “These impacts threaten the people of our states and put an intense burden on our economies.”
A press release announcing the student visit, distributed by the Better Future Project, described Baker as “a Republican governor out of touch with a state that is ready to move forward and fulfill its legacy of climate and environmental leadership.”
But after Baker released his letter, Boston Latin Academy senior Chiamaka Obilo praised Baker for going “above and beyond” the group’s request and demonstrating “bold, nonpartisan leadership.”
“He’s showing that this is not about party, but about the actual matter,” Obilo, a fellow with the Alliance for Climate Education Action, told staff in Baker’s constituent services office.
The Paris agreement, which took effect in November, aims to keep global temperature increases below 2 degrees Celsius. It calls for countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and take other measures to adapt to climate change.
The United States entered the agreement under President Barack Obama, and it’s now up to President Donald Trump to determine if the country remains a party or withdraws. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters on May 9 that Trump will announce his decision after traveling to Italy for a summit with world leaders later this month.
Spicer said Trump has been talking with his environmental and economic advisors and will “come to a decision on what’s the best interest of the United States using the expertise that surrounds him.”
On May 3, the Democratic governors of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia and Washington wrote to Trump urging him to keep the United States in the deal and calling for collective action to limit emissions worldwide.
“Given the progress our states have made in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, we are convinced that the United States’ goal of 26-28 percent below 2005 levels is readily achievable,” the letter said. “Maintaining the U.S. commitment is essential to protect our residents and, indeed, all Americans from the potentially catastrophic impacts of a changing climate.”
Baker and Scott’s separate letter, dated May 17, said the goal is “achievable, but we need continued national leadership.” The two New England Republicans said their states “have already made tremendous progress in reducing our carbon emissions.”
The students asked to meet with Baker to check in on the state’s progress toward lowering carbon emissions and meeting the reduction targets set under the Global Warming Solutions Act.
“We want to make sure he’s actually committed,” Obilo said. “It seems like he’s committed, but we want to ensure that and we want to take steps with him in his commitment to reducing carbon levels in Massachusetts”.