The press, and likely your social media feeds, are abuzz over President Trump's decision today to leave the Paris Agreement, signed by 195 countries in December 2015. His decision will result in the United States joining only Syria and Nicaragua as countries that are not in agreement with this plan. Syria, mind you, is currently trapped in a civil war, and Nicaragua did not sign the agreement because it did not go far enough (the agreement is non-binding, meaning there are not penalties for failing to follow the agreement).
In a completely unexpected turn of events, however, the city of Pittsburgh ended up benefiting from generally positive PR in the wake of this announcement. Although I haven't lived in the Pittsburgh area since graduating college in 2014, I still consider myself a proud Yinzer and am always interested in following the new economy of the Steel City as well as how it is portrayed on the national and world stages. Thus, I thought it was necessary to bring some attention to this interesting development.
In President Trump's speech announcing the U.S. would be leaving the Paris Agreement, he stated "I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris." Besides the fact that the only thing Paris has to do with the agreement is that negations and drafting of the document took place there, the quote rather immediately got the attention of current Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto (D). He was quick to go on a mini-tweetstorm explaining that "Pittsburgh", the city, fully supports the Paris Agreement and will continue to follow the guidelines set forth in it:
The United States joins Syria, Nicaragua & Russia in deciding not to participate with world's Paris Agreement. It's now up to cities to lead— bill peduto (@billpeduto) June 1, 2017
Fact: Hillary Clinton received 80% of the vote in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh stands with the world & will follow Paris Agreement @HillaryClinton https://t.co/cibJyT7MAK— bill peduto (@billpeduto) June 1, 2017
As the Mayor of Pittsburgh, I can assure you that we will follow the guidelines of the Paris Agreement for our people, our economy & future. https://t.co/3znXGTcd8C— bill peduto (@billpeduto) June 1, 2017
His words were, as you'd expect, picked up and mentioned in many articles covering the story. However, other stories also emerged covering how Pittsburgh was a rather, if not very, poor choice of city when talking about leaving an agreement designed to have a positive impact on the environment. Pittsburgh has reinvented itself over the past 20-30 years and has a thriving service economy based in the healthcare, education, and tech sectors. Long gone are the days of smog so thick it literally killed people, as was the case in 1948. Today, the city is known for its beautiful views, great food scene, and vibrant culture and most Pittsburghers are proud of what the city has become.
This was noted in a Lifehacker article "What Pittsburghers Know About the Environment That Trump Still Needs to Learn" posted this evening. The local Pittsburgh Post-Gazette also captured a range of responses. Others made reference to the 13,000 clean-energy jobs in the Pittsburgh metro as of 2015. This Washington Post reporter summed things up quite well:
If we’re still talking Pittsburgh, I’d just add that the people who think it’s still a struggling “steel city” have not been there.— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) June 1, 2017
Support for leaving the agreement fell largely along party lines, but an indirect result was definitely a lot of coverage of the economy and current state of of the City of Pittsburgh. And I've yet to see someone cast the city as still stuck in a grey cloud of smog, literally or otherwise.
Article photo by Robpinion - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Source