The coalition of U.S. states working to stay in the Paris accord are relying on various environmental activist groups to do the heavy lifting in the campaign, according to a report Wednesday from The Washington Times.
A senior aide to Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat and one of the de-facto leaders of the U.S. Climate Alliance, warned Climate Nexus Executive Director Jeff Nesbit in emails that some governors were considering removing themselves from the 14-member coalition meant to adhere to the agreement. The memos also show close coordination between the states and groups.
“Can you call me asap?” Sam Ricketts, director of Inslee’s office, asked in a June 5 email, that the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) received through a public information request. “Sounds like we states have some particular, and substantively very valid, concerns about how this coalition is messaged. If not met I think states will pull out.”
“OMG, come on. I’ve been dealing with this all weekend,” Nesbit said in response. “We’re not messaging it incorrectly at this point. But yes, I’ll call you.” California Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, have joined Nesbit as the chief leaders of the coalition. They have not responded to reporters’ request for comment about the coalition’s efforts.
“It is inarguable. They are being given very expensive staff time and services,” Christopher Horner, a senior analyst with CEI, told reporters. “These governors should immediately release all details about the collusion with these groups, who themselves have a lot to answer for.”
“In all three of those states, a gift is anything of value,” said Horner, who’s group has criticized environmentalists in the past. “The gifts here include a report, and PR services yielding, for example, a New York Times story promoting their ‘leadership.’ We see they met to discuss private offers to hire staffers to be at politicians’ disposal.”
The emails also indicate that the coalition between activists and state governors is considerably more in-depth than mere support. One of the emails indicates the environmental group World Wildlife Fund is primarily responsible for running and contributing to the coalition’s website.
“How come governors aren’t even listed on the website?” Ricketts asked, to which Nesbit replied: “They will be! I promise. It’s controlled by WWF (an acronym for the World Wildlife Fund). They’re melting down over there. I’ll make sure the 9 governors are listed ASAP.”
President Donald Trump announced in June his intention to leave the 2015 Paris deal, that obligates the U.S. reduce its carbon emissions nearly 30 percent by 2025. He removed the country from the non-binding agreement earlier this year under the guise that the deal was not in the best interest of American business.
Employees in California, New York and Washington discussed enlisting the help of outside advocacy groups to help get the coalition off the ground, the emails show.
“It can’t always be us staff running around trying to corral each other for sign on,” notes an email from Aimee Barnes, senior adviser to Brown’s office. She proposed reaching out for help from groups like Georgetown Climate Center, Under2 Coalition and others.
“We are fortunate that at the moment there are many resources keen to be at our disposal to support us further, but in order to make the best use of them, we need to tell them what we need,” Barnes wrote in an email in May.
Ricketts agreed, writing in an emailed response: “There’s of course a plethora of advocate and funder interest … we can approach the different groups (G-town, Rhodium, UNF, whomever) about which of them will play a roll.”
It remains to be seen whether the coalition will have any measurable effect on the climate. Most of the states that have signed on are coastal and have a political interest to staying in the deal. States that produce the bulk of the country’s energy are not keen on jumping in the fray.
Major energy producing states such as Texas, Pennsylvania, and the Dakotas, for instance, have not signed onto the coalition’s non-binding pact, that could greatly hamper the so-called We Are Still In campaign.
Campaigners argue they’re building a bottom-up coalition that will eventually include larger states and businesses. “This is the way we’re going to get to the unusual suspects,” one organizer told reporters earlier this year. But the coalition will have to move fast to build up that network if it hopes to come in under the 2025 deadline.
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