Millennials to the world: Ignore Trump

An open letter to the world:

Last week, President Donald Trump announced his decision to exit the Paris Agreement, stating that his decision reflects his effort to "protect America and its citizens." It’s a move that plucks the U.S. from its global leadership seat and places it next to Syria and Nicaragua as the only countries that have chosen not to engage in the coordinated global initiatives to combat climate change. For perspective, Nicaragua withheld because it thought the agreement was not aggressive enough, and Syria, amid civil war and its humanitarian crisis, was unable to commit the resources needed to participate in the agreement.

Trump’s decision — and subsequent statement that he will try to renegotiate the terms for re-entry so that they are "more fair" for the U.S., its businesses and workers — highlights the fact that his decision is pathetically misinformed.

As such, on behalf of my generation: Feel free to ignore him.

The reality is that most Americans today believe in climate change. A bipartisan majority feels we should remain in the agreement, and delegations of the nation’s largest corporations, state and local government representatives, mayors and other influential leaders are taking it upon themselves to lead on climate, no matter what.

Trump does not represent most young people, millennials such as myself, who are the largest living generation in the United States, making up a quarter of the population.

Our demographic is a growing stakeholder in this and, therefore, your biggest future allies. We are increasingly prioritizing environmental wellness and have some great ideas to share on how to address climate change and enhance standards of living, all the while making a buck. We are getting more involved, politically and at the grassroots, volunteering our time (PDF) to organizations that have real impact.

We represent more than $200 billion in buying power and are increasingly seen voting with our wallets to move industry away from its business-as-usual disregard for the planet. We are actively looking to shake up the traditional economic and political models to accomplish this, and if the last election were solely up to us, the world would see another political party in the White House right now.

We want to work with you, even if our president does not. Why? Because we are next in line to deal with the climate challenges fast approaching.

The ledger tracking those for and against climate action clearly shows a surplus of those in favor. Just last week, ExxonMobil’s shareholders forced the largest oil company in the world (and third-largest company, period) to disclose its climate risks, winning with 62 percent of the vote. (Full disclosure: I am one of many Exxon shareholder-activists who voted in favor of the resolution.)

Seems everywhere we look, Trump’s small circle of climate skeptics grows smaller.

As we move forward, my only request as a young professional working in the cleantech and sustainability world is that those who have committed to Paris keep to it. Don’t fret too much about Trump. You have countless other private- and public-sector leaders to work with on meeting the Paris targets.  

And you’ll soon also have more than 75 million fully fledged, impact-driven millennials as allies. Many of us are ready, willing and able to make big moves on climate action. We have our hearts set on helping to establish and maintain an environmentally principled society. 

And we can’t do it without the cooperation of the rest of the world, including the world’s biggest companies.

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