Baker noncommittal about joining states in climate alliance

UPDATE: Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker has agreed to partner with other states to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. Read more here.


STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, JUNE 2, 2017…..Gov. Charlie Baker should enlist Massachusetts in a new coalition of states committed to carbon reduction efforts called for under the Paris agreement, according to a state senator from western Massachusetts.

The governors of California, New York and Washington, all Democrats, launched the coalition Thursday after President Donald Trump said he’s withdrawing the United States from the international accord, saying its terms are not fair and predicting major job losses because of the agreement.

“The Paris Climate Accord is simply the latest example of Washington entering into an agreement that disadvantages the United States to the exclusive benefit of other countries, leaving American workers — who I love — and taxpayers to absorb the cost in terms of lost jobs, lower wages, shuttered factories, and vastly diminished economic production,” the president said at a Rose Garden announcement.

Asked on Friday whether Massachusetts would be part of the coalition, Baker was noncommittal but said he is willing to work with other states.

“We’re always open to working with other states and I certainly expect and anticipate in the days and weeks ahead that we’ll have conversations with other states about how to work collaboratively on this stuff, too,” Baker told reporters

California Gov. Jerry Brown Jr. said the United States Climate Alliance will bring together states committed to upholding the Paris Climate Agreement and “taking aggressive action on climate change.”

“The President has already said climate change is a hoax, which is the exact opposite of virtually all scientific and worldwide opinion,” Brown said in a statement. “I don’t believe fighting reality is a good strategy – not for America, not for anybody. If the President is going to be AWOL in this profoundly important human endeavor, then California and other states will step up.”

Sen. Eric Lesser told Boston Herald Radio that Baker could enroll Massachusetts in the coalition today if he wanted to and said enlisting would be more than just a symbolic action if a significant number of industrialized states join.

“My suggestion here to Governor Baker is this is a really grand opportunity” said Lesser, who worked for President Barack Obama’s White House.

Baker “has been good on these issues” and joining the coalition would enhance his commitment to environmental protection, the Longmeadow Democrat said.

After Trump’s announcement Thursday, Baker released a statement saying that Massachusetts “is aggressively working to exceed the goals of the Paris Agreement on the state level, while growing our economy through clean energy innovation and environmental stewardship.” He added, “In Massachusetts and around the world, climate change is a shared reality and our ability to rise and respond to this challenge will shape future generations.”

According to Brown’s office, California has the sixth largest economy in the world and California, New York and Washington together represent about 68 million people – nearly one-in-five Americans – and at least 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.

Trump spoke about his decision by phone Thursday with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, President Emmanuel Macron of France, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, and Prime Minister Theresa May of the United Kingdom. According to the White House, Trump told them that the United States remains committed to “robust efforts to protect the environment” and “noted America’s strong record in reducing emissions and leading the development of clean energy technology.” He said that under his watch the U.S. “will be the cleanest and most environmentally friendly country on Earth,” the White House said.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Trump’s decision would have “devastating repercussions.”

“New York State is committed to meeting the standards set forth in the Paris Accord regardless of Washington’s irresponsible actions,” Cuomo said Thursday. “We will not ignore the science and reality of climate change which is why I am also signing an Executive Order confirming New York’s leadership role in protecting our citizens, our environment, and our planet.”

Highlighting bipartisan steps Massachusetts has taken to encourage solar, offshore wind and hydropower, Baker said he has assured others that the state still wants to import renewable energy.

“We’ve had conversations with folks from Canada and from other parts of the world who are planning to bid on this, that we talked to yesterday and expressed our continued commitment to these programs on a go-forward basis,” Baker told reporters Friday.

Human-caused climate change and its potential to contribute to destructive sea-level rise is a partisan issue in U.S. politics, but Baker does not adhere to the skeptical perspective some members of the Republican party have taken on climate science.

“For people who believe that the conversation about this one is political, the one thing I would point out to everybody is if you look at the way the property and casualty insurance business has changed the way it prices and the way it structures insurance for anybody who’s building anything or owns anything along waterfronts, it’s pretty clear that they believe that the storm and the flood issues are real,” Baker said.

Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matt Beaton told the News Service he and others are considering joining the multistate coalition and he hopes the United States can reach some sort of new climate agreement.

“It is important for the United States to lead on this issue, and I’m hopeful some modifications can be worked out as we heard the president say yesterday,” Beaton said. Asked about the president’s claims that the climate agreement disadvantaged the nation, Beaton said the president appeared to be taking a “short-term perspective.”

“It misses the mark on the long view, on the long game, and that’s really what we need to be focused on. That’s what we’re focused on here in Massachusetts,” Beaton said.

Baker said withdrawal from the Paris accord is the wrong step.

“I was disappointed by it,” Baker said. “I don’t think it’s the right thing for the country. I don’t think it’s the right thing for the world. And I do believe that there’s a lot of momentum on those issues.”

[Andy Metzger contributed reporting]

Copyright 2017 State House News Service