With US President Trump’s decision, announced at a press conference held on June 1st, 2017, to retract the country’s commitment to the Paris accord, made by his predecessor in 2015, the world’s attention has been drawn once again to the urgency of the grand challenge of limiting greenhouse emissions. The immediate aftermath of this decision has seen a volley of responses from world leaders, led by a joint statement from the leaders of France, Germany, and Italy, denouncing the decision, climate authorities, environmentalists, and, crucially, business leaders. Among the group of business leaders opposing President Trump’s decision were the CEOs of many of the world’s largest corporations who joined together to publish an open letter to President Trump on May 10th, taking out an ad in the Wall Street Journal.

This active engagement from the world’s business sector is a re-affirmation of a rising trend noted by many climate change experts of the world’s major corporations making proactive efforts to increase their own sustainability, such as Walmart, Apple, and H&M, which have set firm goals for reducing their emissions levels and taken active steps to achieve them. With the government’s role seemingly set to recede in the fight against climate change, the business sector’s continued commitment gives hope for the future yet as their actions, mandated by strict regulations or not, are a sizable contribution towards the Paris accords’ 2020 goals and a signal of the turning tide of public opinion.

The change to the Obama administration’s climate-forward leadership will leave a considerable gap on the national level, cutting federal funding which will also limit the ability of local and state governments to continue their push towards sustainability and clean energy. Nonetheless a number of the country’s states have already shown a willingness to stand against this tide, with the governors of California and New York issuing a joint statement reaffirming their commitment which, along with a similar statement issued by a group of six states, gives hope for a continuation of these prior efforts on the local level. As noted by many climate experts, these efforts undertaken on a local level can possibly have a greater impact on shaping the minds and attitudes of citizens as well as taking concrete steps to make sustainable options and clean energy available for its residents and local businesses.

While the U.S.’s departure from the Paris accord will likely see European nations and China dictate the future of the planet’s climate change efforts in the near future, these signs of committed activism among the U.S.’s business and local government leaders signals a way forward for the country as it awaits a shift in the national climate agenda.

President Trump announces departure from climate accord.

The Harvard Business Review reports on the engaged business leaders.

Read about H&M’s goal to become ‘climate positive’ by 2040.

Apple leads the way among tech companies striving for renewable energy use.

Walmart aims for notable carbon-emissions cuts by 2030.

Newsweek reports on state and local governments’ contributions.

The Guardian reports on the role local governments can have in combating climate change.

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