U.S. subnational entities and businesses ready to take over climate leadership

Thirteen states representing almost 40 percent of the U.S. economy, along with the mayors of nearly 200 cities and more than 900 business leaders, have signed different pledges to continue tackling climate change and reducing fossil fuel emissions, despite the decision of U.S. president Donald Trump to withdraw from the Paris climate accord. Most of them are part of a declaration called ‘We are still in’, which has now a dedicated website to provide the fast growing number of cities, universities and businesses a platform to announce their commitments and to easily sign the declaration.

In addition, according to the website of Washington Governor Jay Inslee, the United States Climate Alliance, which was established by the governors of California, New York and Washington on June 1 in response to Trump’s announcement, has grown by ten new members. These include Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia. The bipartisan coalition is committed to achieve the U.S. nationally-determined contribution (NDC) made under the Paris Agreement, which aims at reducing emissions by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. Hawaii has even already passed a respective law on Tuesday, June 6, committing to the Paris Agreement. However, California and New York represent only two of the top 10 CO2-emitting states, as the Associated Press reports. Texas, the largest polluter among U.S. states, is not part of the coalition.

Nine states of the thirteen states mentioned above have signed the ‘We are still in’ declaration along with 125 cities, including the Mayors from Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami Beach, New York City, Pittsburgh, Salt Lake City, San Francisco and Washington D.C. These states and cities represent in total 120 million American citizens. The signature of 902 business leaders and investors include over 20 “Fortune 500” companies. Among the most well-known firms are Amazon, Apple, Dropbox, eBay, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Nestlé, Nike, Tesla, Twitter and Unilever.

Meanwhile, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is also the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change, submitted the ‘We are still in’ declaration to the UN Secretary-General António Guterres and UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa, as reported by Reuters. He also announced the intention to quantify the overall emission reduction pledges and to submit them as “America’s Pledge” to the United Nations, representing a “Societal NDC”. The Independent reports in this consideration that local data still have to be gathered and that it is uncertain if these initiatives will add up to meet the target in the U.S. NDC. Some recent studies suggest that a reduction of 19 percent is achievable if the U.S. would simply move forward with current policies.

The European Union welcomed the news about the U.S. mobilisation as it is already looking for cities and states to ally for climate leadership, according to Reuters. For this purpose, a meeting of mayors from all over the world is planned to be organised in late 2017 to advance local action on climate change. Moreover, EU Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic recently met California Governor Jerry Brown to deepen the cooperation on climate.

Further, California and China have signed a non-binding agreement to collaborate in efforts to reduce emissions. As The Guardian and The Hill report, the deal encompasses issues of renewable energies, electric vehicles and low-carbon urban development as well as expanded cooperation on climate research. A joint working group shall be set up and identify ways of collaboration and possible investments for reducing GHG emissions. During a closed-door meeting Governor Brown and the Chinese president Xi Jinping also pledged to expand trade between California and China, particularly in the area of green technologies.

While the future engagement of the U.S. in a deal under the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to tackle global aviation emissions remains uncertain as the measures adopted last year are under review by the Trump administration, U.S. airlines have affirmed their support for the agreement, according to Reuters. The global market-based measure to offset aviation emissions after 2020 will initially only be voluntary until 2026. Russia and India have already announced that they will not participate during this period, but airlines from 70 states representing almost 88 percent of international flights are so far included.

These developments and announcements well reflect the opinions of American citizens. According to the newest polls, indeed, a majority of 59 percent opposes Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, whereas 28 percent do support the move.


(Image: Moon Rise behind the San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm. Source: Chuck Coker, flickr)