America’s ‘other half’ steps up climate efforts

Thousands of people attend the People's Climate March to protest Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement. [Nicole S glass/Shutterstock]

On Tuesday (14 November) at COP23, America’s “other half” presented its efforts to fight climate change in spite of the Trump administration’s decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement. 

The US is the second largest global polluter after China, with about 5,414 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year. Under President Barack Obama, the US pledged to reduce its emissions by 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025.

Now a coalition of politicians, academics, and business people feel they can still achieve their goal in spite of the inaction of Donald Trump’s federal government’s.

The initiative, called “America’s Pledge” and spearheaded by California Governor Jerry Brown and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, was presented at the UN conference on climate change in Bonn, Germany, and aims to show the other side of the US, the one that is stepping up its fight against climate change.

A report published on Tuesday by America’s Pledge notes that a coalition of 15 US states, 455 cities, 325 universities and 1,747 businesses – representing 49% of the US population, 54% of its GDP, and more than a third of national GHG emissions – are still on board with the Paris Agreement.

The report, more than 100 pages long, collects case studies of best practices on climate action at a state, city or business level.

California, often touted as a climate-leader, has been given centre-stage in the report: “California has adopted the strongest targets of any US state for reducing emissions from climate pollutants other than CO2,” it read, by promising to cut methane emissions by at least 40% by 2030, and non-forest black carbon emissions by at least 50% by 2030 (using 2013 as a baseline).

US cities have also developed their own climate targets. “Setting a community-wide GHG emissions reduction target is one of the most popular actions [in US cities]. While not all cities have formally adopted such a target, the majority (39) of the largest US cities are in the process of developing one,” the report stated.

The role of regions, cities and businesses in advancing climate action is something gaining more and more space in UN climate talks. Especially when intergovernmental arrangements fail, lower levels of government, it is thought, have the opportunity to bring policy in line with environmental goals.

On 12 November, 25 global cities (including London, Paris, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Hong-Kong, Seoul) have pledged to achieve zero net emissions by 2050.

Cities take up climate baton at COP23, make ambitious emission pledges

Mayors from 25 cities around the world, representing 150 million citizens, pledged on Sunday (12 November) to cut their carbon emissions to net zero by 2050, while boosting efforts to become more resilient to extreme weather and other pressures linked to climate change.

The report signed by Jerry Brown and Michael Bloomberg aimed at taking stock of the best US practices – a second report is in the making, quantifying whether a coalition of willing actors  can achieve the US’ share of the Paris Agreement. Under Obama, the US pledged to reduce its emissions by 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025.

While generally optimistic, the report acknowledges that the biggest emissions will have to come from fossil-fuel emitting states, who are not currently onboard.

California Governor Jerry Brown highlighted the Global Climate Action Summit, which will be held in September 2018 in San Francisco, will bring together actors including cities, federal states and corporations to discuss their climate commitments and action plans.

Earlier this month he was in Brussels, discussing how to link up the Californian and EU carbon markets.

EU and California to discuss linking carbon markets

The EU and California are beginning talks to potentially create a common carbon market that could also include China.