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Guardian Op-Ed: Trump won’t stop Americans hitting the Paris climate targets. Here’s how we do it

The global effort to confront climate change was hobbled for many years by the mistaken idea that only national governments and international rules could solve the problem. The Paris agreement, which recognizes and supports voluntary carbon-reduction efforts by cities, regions and businesses, was an important step in the right direction. Ironically, no one has done more to demonstrate the agreement’s strengths than its most prominent critic: Donald Trump.

Last week, the Trump administration formally notified the UN of its intention to withdraw from the Paris agreement. It was an empty gesture, because no party can actually withdraw until November 2020 (right after the next US presidential election). What matters is this: the US is on pace to reach the commitment we made under the agreement – and there is nothing Washington can do to stop us.

Over the past decade, the US has led the world in reducing carbon emissions. In that time, the US Congress has never passed a single law directly aimed at climate change.

The central climate-related regulation adopted by the Obama administration – a carbon emission standard for power plants – was put on hold by the courts and never even went into effect. And yet we are already about halfway to our Paris goal of reducing carbon emissions by at least 26% by 2025.

That progress has happened because cities, states, business and citizens all recognize the health and economic benefits of action. And they are not slowing down now. In fact, the biggest impact of Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris agreement has been to accelerate those efforts and improve public understanding of their central role in fighting climate change.

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