America Will Meet Half Its Paris Agreement Commitments Thanks To States And Cities

There is real, practical hope here. Mihai Simonia/Shutterstock

It’s worth remembering that, although the White House announced to the world that it’s pulling out of the Paris climate change agreement, a large swath of the country remains committed to it. Both Democratic and Republican-controlled or leaning states, cities, and business are cutting their greenhouse gas emissions, because they want to save the planet, boost their economy, or both.

Until now, the carbon-cutting achievements of these actors hasn’t really been analyzed, but thanks to a new report, it’s clear that they’re making serious inroads. According to The Climate Group and the NewClimate Institute, their efforts mean that the US will meet half of its Paris agreement commitments by 2025.

The report finds that because of their political influence, population size, economic clout, and public support, large states like California, New York, and Colorado are making the most significant contribution to carbon-cutting efforts at present. In terms of the 50 percent Paris commitment contributions, US states are providing two-thirds of the work.

However, it’s worth pointing out that individual cities are being more ambitious, aiming for an average 22 percent reduction in emissions by 2025. Businesses are aiming the highest with a 25 percent reduction target.

The report’s authors note that this is likely to be an underestimation. The report has only collated 44 percent of the US’ total emissions. “Much more action is happening that is not yet recorded or formulated in a quantified way,” Professor Niklas Höhne of the NewClimate Institute said in a statement.

Overall, thanks to these actions, the trend of America’s emissions is actually downwards, not upwards. Considering that the federal government is going full-steam ahead with climate denial just as it’s trying its best to resurrect the failing coal industry, this is a pretty impressive effort.

Charting the future. The grey band represents what will happen if the states, cities, and businesses keep up their efforts. The green bar represents what would happen if the federal government played along too. NewClimate Institute

Sure, the country could use a White House that’s doing precisely the opposite, and the targets set by each state for cutting its carbon footprint could be more ambitious still. Getting halfway to the commitments set out by the groundbreaking climate accords is still nowhere near good enough for the planet’s second-most prolific greenhouse gas emitter.

States alone cannot fix this problem. In order for America to fulfill its obligations, the federal government needs to completely change tack too.

Nevertheless, the key point here is that Trump’s withdrawal from Paris isn’t causing as much damage as it could have done, which is good news not just for those who believe science should dictate American policy, but for the rest of the world, which is doubling-down on its efforts to mitigate climate change.

There is real, practical hope here, and the more that people realize that, the better everyone will be.

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