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President Trump’s announcement that he will withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement is reckless and short-sighted. He passed along the burden of environmental stewardship to future generations, including my daughter, who are now responsible for cleaning up the environmental mess that we’ve made and continue to make.

Trump demonstrates a lack of vision, ignoring what is economically competitive, innovative and equitable for what is comfortingly familiar. In my opinion, his motivations originate from the same well of ignorance southern leaders in the 20th century drew from while fighting for Jim Crow and that former Alabama Governor George Wallace displayed when literally standing in the University of Alabama’s doorway to obstruct the legal integration of the institution. Although it was bad for business and society, they continued to uphold a system that minimized the ability of the southern economy to turn toward the future where all people were assets and mattered.

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Trump’s decision is detrimental to us all, and most definitely to low-wealth communities and communities of color in the American South. People of color more likely breathe bad air and consequently are the first to suffer from its effects, such as asthma. African Americans are three times more susceptible to asthma. We are also disproportionately affected by the impacts of climate change such as flooding and extreme heat. To understand the effects of sea level rise in Georgia, just walk around Chatham County to see dying trees and tides that threaten marsh-front property. The Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans, made up primarily of low-income African Americans, is still struggling to rebuild itself, twelve years after Hurricane Katrina caused widespread destruction, suffering and death.

Is President Trump willing to visit emergency rooms in Atlanta and Birmingham and explain to the Black and Latino communities why coal jobs matter more than their children’s health? Will he visit the flooded areas in the Carolinas and the Gulf Coast, and tell the vulnerable populations that climate action is a bad deal for America?

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In his speech last week, President Trump relied on debunked reports to say compliance with the climate deal will lead to huge job losses. That could not be further from the truth. Coal isn’t coming back. Cheaper renewable power and natural gas have beat in the market, providing cleaner energy at a lower price.

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Coal is also uniquely dirty, and that pollution disproportionately impacts communities of color. About 68% of African Americans live within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant. Hispanics are also 165% more likely to live in counties with unhealthy levels of power plant pollution than non-Latino whites. People need not only jobs but healthier jobs that will allow them to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Black lung should not be an inevitable ailment that fathers and mothers in Appalachia contract in exchange for the income needed to feed their families.

Ultimately, pulling out of the Paris Agreement threatens the paychecks and promise generated by the new green economy for the untapped talent in under-resourced communities. By clinging to coal, we risk missing out on the jobs being created by the wind, solar and other sustainable businesses. Clean energy supports 3.3 million jobs in the country. Solar alone employs more workers than coal, oil and natural gas combined. Georgia as part of the Sunbelt proudly supports more than 60,000 advanced energy jobs.

Importantly, renewable energy and energy efficiency provide fresh entrepreneurial opportunities for minority-owned businesses across the South, and are a gateway to empowering communities and strengthening their local economy. Colleges such as the Agnes Scott College located in Decatur, Georgia are working to minimize their carbon emissions while exploring opportunities to engage vulnerable communities around energy equity.

Trump’s eagerness to stall action on climate change and promote coal will hurt our future economic competitiveness by slowing down our nation’s progress towards a green economy whose time has come. Just like the southern leaders fighting for the old ways of “Dixie” minimized the ability of their southern communities to fully benefit from the strength of diversity and inclusion.

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It’s been heartening to see Georgia’s political leaders speak out in opposition to Trump’s move. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, along with more than 1,200 mayors, governors and business leaders around the nation, have committed to support climate action to meet the Paris Agreement goals in the absence of federal leadership. As my city Atlanta marches towards meeting its goal of 100% renewable energy, I do hope Mayor Reed will ensure the emerging green economy does not leave behind the same communities our current economy has forgotten and exploited since its inception. Let us move toward a cleaner economy where all can participate and prosper in its growth and benefits. Our collective future will be decided by whether we choose to stand in the way of progress or allow current and future generations to walk through the door of hope toward a more just and inclusive energy tomorrow.

Nathaniel Smith is the founder of Partnership for Southern Equity, an Atlanta-based nonprofit committed to promoting shared prosperity in the American South and empowering vulnerable populations and communities of color most affected by environmental, economic and racial inequities.

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Nathaniel Smith is the founder of Partnership for Southern Equity, an Atlanta-based nonprofit committed to promoting shared prosperity in the American South and empowering vulnerable populations and communities of color most affected by environmental, economic and racial inequities.