Seven months after a bipartisan group of governors formed the U.S. Climate Alliance in support of the Paris climate accord — and after he previously questioned the purpose of the group — Gov. Larry Hogan said Maryland will join, after all.
The alliance formed in June in response to President Donald Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord, under which virtually all of the nations in the world agreed to take steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Asked about the group in June, Hogan said he was unsure "what the intention of the group is." He suggested it was unnecessary for Maryland to join because the state had "already accomplished what most of them need to try to shoot for."
But he told alliance organizers Wednesday that Maryland would participate, "as long as the U.S. Climate Alliance adds value, shows true bipartisanship, and avoids Washington, D.C.'s politics-as-usual, corrosive tactics and distractions."
"When the president announced his intention to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, I said I disagreed and that it was not a decision I would have made," Hogan wrote to Julie Cerqueira, the alliance's executive director. "That continues to be my position."
Lawmakers in both chambers of the General Assembly have crafted legislation that would have directed Hogan to join the alliance. Dels. Dana Stein and Kumar Barve, Democrats from Baltimore County and Montgomery County, respectively, filed a bill directing Hogan to join the group and prohibiting the state from withdrawing without the legislature's approval. Baltimore Sen. Joan Carter Conway and Prince George's County Sen. Paul Pinsky, also both Democrats, were working on similar legislation in the Senate.
Maryland joins 14 states and Puerto Rico as alliance members, who all agree to uphold the United States' commitments under the agreement.
In September, the group said member states were on track to meet the goals of the pact, to reduce emissions levels 24 percent to 29 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.
Hogan said Maryland is on track to meet its own goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 20 percent by 2020, "significantly stronger than the Paris climate accord and more aggressive than 47 other states."
He also touted Maryland's participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cap-and-trade system for Northeast power plants, and in a recent United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Germany.
The climate alliance was launched by three Democrats — California Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr., New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. Hogan joins Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and Vermont Gov. Phil Scott as the only Republican executives to sign on to the alliance.
Mitch Jones, a senior policy advocate with environmental group Food and Water Watch, called Hogan's decision a political move. He said joining the group is "a bare minimum" of what should be expected of the state and its executive.
Del. Shane Robinson, a Montgomery County Democrat, said Maryland should have been one of the first states to join the group.
"We need to lead by example," Robinson said.