Pittsburgh skyline. (Darrell Sapp/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP)
PITTSBURGH — In announcing plans to pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord, President Donald Trump declared that he was “elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.” But the Steel City is hardly in Trump’s corner on this one.
At City Hall and on the streets, Pittsburgh residents expressed support for efforts to combat global warming and complained that the president, in singling out this city of 300,000, seemed to be thinking of a smoke-belching, soot-choked Pittsburgh that no longer even exists.
The steel mills and other factories that once made Pittsburgh look like “hell with the lid taken off” all but disappeared over the past generation, and the city has become known as a hub for technology, higher education, energy and health care. In recent years, in fact, it has worked to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
In the wake of Trump’s decision, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto reaffirmed his city’s commitment to the 2015 Paris accord and called the president’s move “reckless” and “unacceptable.”
Pittsburgh’s Allegheny County went heavily for Democrat Hillary Clinton in last fall’s election, giving her 57 percent of the vote to Trump’s 40 percent.
“We have a history of pollution and industry, and we’re working really hard as a city to move past that through our growing industries,” said Isabella Sigado, a 21-year-old art history student at the University of Pittsburgh. “Pittsburgh is turning into a green city.”
Trump, she said, is “playing on a past generation and a lost industry, and we can’t bring it back.”
Nearly 4,000 miles away, Parisian Raphael Angeli said Trump’s decision puts him at odds with many of his fellow citizens and much of the world.
“I think the people of Pittsburgh understand that this is a global problem,” said Angeli, a 29-year-old digital communications manager.
Nearly 200 countries have ratified the Paris agreement. On Thursday, nearly 90 mayors said they would uphold its goals.
Pittsburgh’s mayor issued an executive order Friday committing the city to the accord by continuing efforts to end the use of landfills, reduce energy consumption by half and develop a fossil fuel-free fleet of city vehicles.
“Pittsburgh and other cities know that fighting climate change will not only save our planet, but save lives,” Peduto said in a statement. “The president has made America weaker and the world less safe. … In Pittsburgh, we’ve rebuilt our economy on the future and our people, not on the past.”
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo on Friday disagreed with Trump’s assertion that his decision was a good move for the American economy.
“Donald Trump is really a representative of a world gone by, a world that is looking back in the rear-view mirror and does not see what is happening today,” Hidalgo said.