On June 1, 2017, President Trump declared that the United States would “cease all implementation of the non-binding Paris Accord and the draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country.” The United States’ de facto withdrawal from the Paris Agreement represented an important inflection point for conceptualizing the role of nonstate actors in addressing climate change. President Trump's announcement was met with an outpouring of resistance and widespread and concerted efforts to mobilize substate, nonprofit, and private actors to step into the void created by his announcement and to help keep the United States on track to pursue domestic and international commitments to address climate change despite federal recalcitrance. Within the leadership void created by the Trump Administration and amidst the increasingly extensive body of sub- and nonstate climate efforts, it is tempting to decenter the role of the state or to underestimate the persistent power of the state to shape the approach and effectiveness of nonstate actions. Failing to recognize that the state retains significant power in this field undermines efforts to understand the realities within which nonstate actors operate. This creates a set of heightened expectations for these actors that defies the reality of the political, economic, and social resources available to them and masks the challenges inherent in relying upon a fragmented, shifting, and differently accountable set of actors to effect pervasive change.
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