A rooftop is covered with solar panels at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in New York, with the Manhattan skyline in the distance.
Can cities formally sign on to the Paris agreement without the federal government? Mark Lennihan/AP

According to the UN’s Patricia Espinosa, they may be able to sidestep the federal swerve—but the legality is still unclear.

This story originally appeared on Grist and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Cities and states may be able to officially join the Paris Agreement after all.

Patricia Espinosa, head of the United Nations climate change body that negotiated the accord, told ministers at a June 11-12 meeting that she hopes to bring U.S. cities and states into the fold.

“This is obviously important, because cities like New York and states like California that intend to pursue the same direction—of reducing emissions very ambitiously—will have a voice and will be able to sign agreements inside the international convention on climate change,” said Espinosa, as reported by Politico.

After Trump announced the U.S. would drop out of the Paris deal, numerous states, cities, and businesses reiterated commitments to reducing emissions. But the actual legality of cities and states joining international treaties remains murky under the U.S. Constitution.

“It’s a little bit early to know what exactly is meant by” Espinosa’s comment, says Vicki Arroyo, executive director of the Georgetown Climate Center. Arroyo says it could refer to subnational representatives, like governors, receiving credentials to attend climate talks and participate in discussions, rather than state or municipal governments literally signing on.

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Emma Foehringer Merchant

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