It has been a year since President Trump decided to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. When the United States – the second largest global CO2 emitter – decided to withdraw from the Paris accord, everyone thought it would undercut the country’s collective efforts to reduce carbon emissions. But, a silver lining in the dark cloud appeared when the city and state coalitions decided to lead the fight to reduce carbon emissions. They announced their plans to ramp up actions to cut carbon pollution as the rest of the world continues to achieve the goals of the Paris accord.
Will state-level efforts help the US to meet greenhouse gas emissions targets envisaged under the landmark agreement? Let’s find out.
An overview of the deal
After withdrawing from the Paris Agreement, the United States not only refused to reduce its emissions but also decided to stop providing financial help to the developing countries.
Here’s what the U.S. committed to before deciding to quit:
- The U.S. had committed to reducing its Greenhouse Gas emissions by 25% to 28% by 2025.
- They had pledged to provide $3 billion to the Green Climate Fund to help developing countries adapt to climate change.
The hope lies on American states now
Thanks to the collective efforts of the states, the U.S. is still making progress in spite of lack of support from the federal government. Many of the efforts involve strict emissions reduction goals laid out by states such as California, New York and Washington. The states differ in their level of ambition, as well as their plans to achieve the reduction goals. Here are some examples:
- The state of California prohibits the use of climate warming hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) from new air conditioning and refrigeration. California is also levying harsher than ever emissions regulations and rolling out an initiative to get more electric vehicles on the roads.
- The New York city has announced to divest pension funds from fossil fuel interests.
- The U.S. Alliance on Climate Change that now includes governors from 16 states and Puerto Rico has also announced their initiatives focused on renewable energy, sustainable infrastructure, clean transportation and carbon storage.
- In 2017, a coalition of states and local municipalities led by former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman vowed to protect the environment and aggressively oppose President Trump’s actions that ignore law and the importance of addressing climate change issues.
Why involvement of higher-level governments is important?
While the states have decided to fill the ‘environmental vacuum’, it is difficult to measure their collective progress towards achieving the goals of the landmark agreement. It’s because the Paris Agreement traditionally hinges on commitments made only by the national governments. So, even if all states met their near-term climate reduction goals, it would not be enough for the nation as a whole to fulfill its pledge under the Paris accord.
What further step can be taken to make the efforts stronger?
There are some steps that can be taken to make the movement stronger:
- The state governments can push the federal government to increase climate mitigation efforts to make a difference under the Trump administration.
- Cities and states can take further steps to reduce emissions. For example, by negotiating contracts with local utilities to supply greater amounts of renewable energy, improving infrastructure, building rapid transit programs etc.
- Corporations can take measures like – making sure their supply chain is eco-friendly and buying renewable energy for their factories and offices.
While the states are heading in the right direction, the alliance has representation from less than half of the U.S. states. Also, Texas, which is the biggest contributor of pollution, has not joined the movement yet. Nevertheless, despite many challenges and lack of support from the federal government, the states’ actions send a strong message to the international community. It shows that they are still committed to uphold the US objectives of the Paris Agreement within their borders.