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Paris Proves It: We Must Fill Trump's Leadership Void

President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the Paris climate agreement is the latest example of how important it is for Missourians to step up the transition to clean energy. Trump’s decision will have a huge global impact, but we should really be paying attention to its impact here at home.

In Missouri, we’re no stranger to how greenhouse gases affect climate. Our crops, flora and fauna can’t adapt rapidly enough to shortening winters, as seen once again with the early bloom this year. Once-rare “500-year” floods struck St. Louis County twice in the past 18 months. My parents are in their 70s and still live in Eureka where I grew up. They were stranded for days by the floodwater of the Meramec River, and I shudder to think of what could have happened if they’d needed medical attention.

Fortunately, we know how to reduce the risks of climate change. Namely, burning less carbon and using cleaner sources of energy like solar and wind. In doing so, we can also lead the country into a 21st-century future powered by a growing clean energy economy, instead of propping up the dying industries of the past.

As a manager at a small business that designs, builds and maintains commercial and residential solar energy systems, I’m worried about the economic ripple effects of Trump’s Paris decision. And I’m not the only one: Missouri has over 3,000 solar power jobs, 1,000 wind jobs and an incredible 37,000 energy efficiency jobs. By pulling the United States out, President Trump is sending a clear signal that he does not want America to be a global leader on the energy sources that will power our future economy.

It’s up to all the rest of us to fill this gap in leadership. And I’m happy to see that’s already begun. In the aftermath of Trump’s withdrawal, thousands of businesses, cities, counties and colleges have united to say that “We Are Still In.” I’m happy to report that many of our local leaders — the mayors of St. Louis, Columbia, Kansas City, University City, St. Charles and President Charles Ambrose of the University of Central Missouri — have committed to combating climate change.

Gov. Eric Greitens publicly emphasized the threat of climate change before becoming governor of Missouri. Now is the time for him to join the growing list of governors across the country who have pledged to battle climate change.

This type of local ground-up effort and leadership is a hallmark of Missouri’s style of politics. The Show-Me State has the distinction of being the only state to institute a renewable portfolio standard through a citizen ballot initiative process — Proposition C on the November 2008 ballot — with more than two thirds of Missourians voting yes for clean energy. Recent polling indicates that 81 percent of Missourians support funding renewable energy research and 72 percent of us think carbon dioxide should be regulated.

Despite this, state lawmakers have wrapped an entire roll of red tape around the renewable energy industry, imposing regulation after regulation and giving utilities the option of taxing Missourians who own solar. Just across the river in Illinois, the policies are more flexible. Ameren Illinois has sold off its power plants and has chosen to focus on owning and operating the electric grid as a delivery of service or availability provider. Here in Missouri, citizens should also have the option to generate their own power without costly surcharges.

Putting power back in the people’s hands literally allows citizens to reduce monthly energy bills and carbon pollution all the while creating jobs and growing the state economy. Missourians are already joining fellow Americans in speaking up and pushing for the clean energy they want. Trump’s Paris withdrawal may cast a cloud over the solar industry, but if the rest of us continue to act, sunny days are in store for the Show-Me State.

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