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Jay Inslee
Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee speaks at a New York news conference organized by the U.S. Climate Alliance. (New York Governor’s Office via YouTube)

Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee joined with other governors today in New York to declare they’re “squarely on track” to meet the goals of the Paris climate agreement that the Trump administration says it rejects.

Inslee and the governors of 13 other states and the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico have banded together to form the U.S. Climate Alliance, a bipartisan coalition that aims to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions through state and regional initiatives.

“We are the ‘can do’ coalition,” Inslee said at today’s New York news conference, conducted in conjunction with Climate Week NYC. “We are the governors who believe we can defeat climate change, and while Donald Trump has told the world to count us out, our message is simple in New York City this week: You can count us in.”

Other governors on the dais included New York’s Andrew Cuomo and California’s Jerry Brown. “We’ll keep going, and eventually Washington will join with us, because you can’t deny the science forever,” Brown said.

Former Secretary of State John Kerry, who helped negotiate the Paris pact during the Obama administration, was also on hand. Kerry argued that the past month’s succession of strong hurricanes in the Atlantic, and the wildfires that hit the Pacific Northwest this summer, illustrated the high stakes involved in addressing climate issues.

“We’re seeing that in state after state. We’re seeing droughts that last longer, floods that are supposed to happen every 500 years happening more frequently,” he said. “No one who is living this, really living it, doubts what is happening. And the importance of these governors coming together … is to say we’re living on the front lines of this, and we are going to deliver for our nation and for the world.”

The Obama administration’s commitment under the Paris agreement was to reduce industrial greenhouse-gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent of 2005 levels by the year 2025. In a report released today, the U.S. Climate Alliance said its members were collectively on track to reach that goal.

The coalition said it registered a 15 percent reduction between 2005 and 2015, compared with a 10 percent reduction for the rest of the country. At the same time, Climate Alliance members registered a 14 percent economic growth rate, compared with 12 percent for the rest of the country, according to the report.

Kerry said the statistics served as evidence that the shift to renewable energy sources such as solar and wind presented an “enormous economic opportunity for our nation.”

“The solution to climate change is not some pie-in-the-sky theory that we’re waiting for some college or entrepreneur to find,” he said. “It’s here. Now. We know what the solution to climate change is: It’s energy policy.”

In addition to Washington state, New York, California and Puerto Rico, the coalition’s members include Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia.

The 15 members account for more than $7 trillion worth of the United States’ $18.6 trillion gross domestic product, and 117 million Americans (which accounts for a little more than a third of the U.S. population).

“If we were a country, we would be the third-largest economy of any nation in the world,” Inslee said.

The report said the coalition would focus its efforts on expanding clean-energy finance tools — such as the NY Green Bank — modernizing the power and transportation sectors, promoting energy-efficient buildings, building climate-resilient infrastructure and protecting natural resources.

Cuomo said he didn’t think the climate issue needed to be as partisan as it’s portrayed in Washington, D.C. “I urge the other governors to take a hard look at the facts and the science, and put aside the politics,” Cuomo said.

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