TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y. — Tompkins County legislators unanimously supported the United States participating in the Paris Agreement and continuing action locally to combat climate change.

Legislator Martha Robertson, D-Dryden, pushed a resolution Tuesday to support the United States’ participation “in fighting the global threat of climate change through the Paris Agreement along with continued local government action.” The resolution comes less than a week after President Donald Trump announced the U.S. will pull out of the Paris Agreement.

With the resolution, Tompkins County signed an open letter along with more than 1,200 mayors, governors, college leaders and businesses throughout the nation, who say they will continue to support climate action to meet the Paris Agreement.

► Read the open letter here

Robertson said it does matter that Tompkins County takes a stand on this national issue.

“It really matters that this President has thumbed his nose at the world. I won’t even say fake news, he has lied about his reasons why. He has deliberately misinterpreted what the agreement is. … I hope it makes people feel like we’re in this together, we’re going to keep going, but I sure hope people don’t delude themselves into thinking this was not a vast, huge mistake based on lies,” Robertson said.

In addition to signing the open letter, Tompkins County reaffirmed its commitment to take action to reduce climate pollution.

Tompkins County has demonstrated a “legacy of leadership” against climate change, the resolution states. The county has adopted its 2020 Energy Strategy with a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050. Recently, the county was commended by the Department of Environmental Conservation for being a “climate smart community.”

The commendation came from DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos, who said on Twitter the White House failed the world on climate by nixing the Paris Treaty. Seggos also supported Gov. Andrew Cuomo who said New York will stay committed to meeting the standards set forth in the Paris climate accord, regardless of Washington.

“The White House’s reckless decision to withdraw from the Paris Accord has devastating repercussions not only for the United States, but for our planet. This administration is abdicating its leadership and taking a backseat to other countries in the global fight against climate change. New York State is committed to meeting the standards set forth in the Paris Accord regardless of Washington’s irresponsible actions. 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,” Cuomo said in a statement.

Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick is on the list of mayors who vowed to uphold the Paris Agreement. In a Facebook post last week, Myrick said the City of Ithaca will uphold the agreement “because leaving the Paris Agreement is an incredibly irresponsible act. The US joins Syria and Nicaragua as the only Nations reckless enough to not sign on. So we’ll continue working on a green building code, smart growth policies that reduce sprawl, and the purchase of clean energy – like the 1.5 megawatts of electricity we’ll purchase from a solar farm near the airport.”

The county’s resolution states that climate change affects all residents and businesses, but especially communities that already face socioeconomic and health inequities. The resolution said the county was already feeling the effects of climate change through “increased temperatures, more extreme weather such as the 2015 flood event in Newfield” and last summer’s drought.

Legislator Anna Kelles, D-Ithaca, said this resolution is important even if it’s symbolic as to what they can do at the federal level. She said she also does not see this resolution as a divergence from the investments the county is currently making.

“This to me is a practical declaration of things that we are already doing in the county. So I do not feel that this in any way is an economic burden. We are making initiatives in this county to ensure the resiliency of our county, both economically and environmentally,” Kelles said.

Legislator Mike Sigler, R-Lansing, also supported the resolution. Sigler said he thought pulling out of the Paris Agreement was wrong for “a number of reasons.” Referencing cities and local municipalities in control of building codes, he said local action to combat climate change needs to happen, not just talk.

“They talk a great game, like we are fully behind this, we are gonna do this, but when the rubber really meets the road, they’re not doing it. They’re not. And why aren’t they? I don’t know,” Sigler said.

Featured image: File photo of Tompkins County Legislature. Kelsey O’Connor/Ithaca Voice

Kelsey O'Connor

Kelsey O'Connor is the managing editor for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at koconnor@ithacavoice.com and follow her on Twitter @bykelseyoconnor.