The Laurel City Council Monday announced that Mayor Craig Moe signed onto the "We Are Still In" initiative, a national coalition of leaders focused on maintaining the Paris Climate Agreement, which President Trump dropped June 1.
The exit made the U.S. one of three countries not signed onto the accords, a global pact focused on mitigating the effects of global warming. The agreement comprises more 1,000 governors, mayors, businesses and university presidents nationwide.
"I don't think it'll change 1600's ideas," Council President Michael Leszcz said at the council's meeting, referring to the White House's address on Pennsylvania Avenue, "but at least there is a commitment on the part of the people that we know we've got some kind of a problem and we've got to do something to slow it down."
Laurel resident Amy Knox, a representative of advocacy group Historic Laurel Huddle — formed in the aftermath of the Women's March on Washington this year — arrived at the City Council meeting ready to urge the council to commit the city to the initiative, only to find out that Moe already had.
"It's exciting to know that they're committed, that they are in and that the Environmental Affairs Committee will be moving in a forward direction," Knox said, referring to the committee Councilman Frederick Smalls chairs, which will participate in the efforts.
Knox brought a petition with 27 signatures from current and former Laurel citizens requesting the city participate in this "important event." Fellow Historic Laurel Huddle member Gabriella King, of Laurel, said she encouraged Knox to start the petition, and was "thrilled" to learn of Laurel's commitment.
"If other nations look and see the volume of governments and states and universities and businesses that are also part of our country saying, 'We're still in,' then that mitigates the effect of this one person — who happens to be in the White House — saying no," King said. "It's exciting to be able to do something to be able to say not only does our president not speak for me, or for us, but to take it to the next level and say, 'We're doing it anyway.'"
The Paris Agreement's goals included preventing the global average temperatures of rising 2 degrees celsius, with the U.S. specifically committing to cutting the country's greenhouse gas emissions at least 26 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.
Multiple state leaders, including Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh and Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett, have signed onto the initiative to continue combating climate change despite the president withdrawing from the accords.
"It's an enormous step in right direction," Knox said at the meeting. "And even if the federal government denies that climate change is happening, and turns its back on the climate accord, the city of Laurel will still support that initiative."