President Trump pulled out of the Paris Agreement back in 2017, but that doesn't mean that individual states are waiting on climate action. This past June marked the first anniversary of the U.S. Climate Alliance, and we are seeing our climate leaders take on new initiatives to ensure a clean energy future for the United States.
What led to the creation of the U.S. Climate Alliance?
Climate change is a global phenomenon that presents a serious threat to the environment, our health, communities, and economy. In December 2015, for the first time ever, 195 countries adopted a universal, legally binding global climate deal at the Paris climate conference (COP21). The United States, as part of this deal, pledged to cut domestic greenhouse gas emissions at least 26-to-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, as well as to commit $3 billion in aid to poorer countries by 2020.
In 2017, President Trump announced that the United States would pull out of the Paris Agreement claiming that it gave advantages to major developing countries while saddling developed countries such as the United States with unfair costs, even though studies showed that the agreement would boost the United States' international reputation and economy. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, along with sixteen other governors, disagreed with the President's decision and committed to uphold the Paris Agreement through the creation of the U.S. Climate Alliance. The Alliance states are on track to meet, and perhaps surpass, the greenhouse gas reduction goals of the Paris Agreement.
What is the U.S. Climate Alliance doing to accelerate climate change action?
Each member state of the U.S. Climate Alliance has committed to (1) pursuing the greenhouse climate reducing goals of the Paris Agreement, (2) tracking and reporting progress to the global community, and (3) accelerating new and existing policies to reduce carbon pollution and promote clean energy deployment. Recently, the Alliance announced that its states are pursuing new initiatives that will accelerate climate action, including:
- Reducing Super Pollutants : The Alliance plans to drive down short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) by phasing down hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), capturing and putting waste methane to work, and addressing super emitters. Learn more about the super pollutant action plan here.
- Mobilizing Financing for Climate Projects: The Alliance is collaborating to expand sustainable infrastructure financing opportunities and help advance new "Green Banks." As a part of this initiative, the New York Green Bank is raising at least $1 billion from the private sector to deploy nationally, and providing resources to newly-established Green Banks. Learn more about the Green Banking Initiative here.
- Grid Modernization: The Alliance is focusing on "non-wire alternatives" for deployment of distributed clean energy. The initiative will expand innovative approaches to utility planning that can meet electricity demand while avoiding build-out of traditional electric transmission and distribution infrastructure. Learn more about the Grid Modernization Initiative here.
- Renewable Energy: The Alliance is reducing the costs of solar projects. The initiative is developing implementation resources for states and local governments to drive down the non-hardware "soft costs" of solar. These developments will lead to better economics for customers and greater deployment. This initiative will also help to offset the impact of the solar tariffs established by the federal government in January 2018. Learn more about the Solar Soft Costs Initiative here.
- Appliance Efficiency Standards: Several Alliance states are developing energy efficiency standards for consumer products and appliances, which would save Americans billions in energy costs and cut greenhouse gas emissions. Because the federal government has stalled its appliance standards activity, these states are stepping up.
- Building Resilient Communities and Infrastructure: The Alliance, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy and the National Council on Science and the Environment, is building greater climate resiliency of its communities. The initiative is fundamentally changing the way infrastructure is designed and procured. The Alliance is analyzing its states' infrastructure risks now and in the future from vulnerability to floods, wildfire, and drought. Learn more about how the initiative will inform mitigation and adaptation planning here.
- Increasing Carbon Storage in our Landscapes: The Alliance is partnering with The Nature Conservancy, American Forests, World Resources Institute, American Farmland Trust, the Trust for Public Land, Coalition on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation to pursue opportunities to increase carbon storage in forests, farms, and ecosystems. This group of organizations is launching an initiative to identify best practices for land conservation, management, and restoration to develop a carbon storage policy framework for implementation. Learn more about the Natural and Working Lands Initiative here.
- Deploying Clean Transportation: The Alliance is accelerating deployment of zero-emissions vehicles, expanding and improving mass transit and active transportation choices, and implementing other measures for moving towards zero-emission vehicle miles traveled. Learn more about the Clean Transportation initiative here.
Is the U.S. Climate Alliance taking on an unfair amount of responsibility?
The typical argument against climate action is that it hinders the economy. However, the numbers speak for themselves. Since the Alliance's creation, it's economies have grown faster than the rest of the country. The Alliance states account for 40% of U.S. GDP, at least 9 trillion dollars of combined economic activity, and 1.3 million clean energy jobs. By pursuing the goals set for the United States under the Paris Agreement, the Alliance has done well by their constituents, and will continue to do so.
The Alliance states strive to achieve a clean energy future despite the present absence of federal climate leadership. The Alliance has already demonstrated that climate leadership has a tangible, positive economic and health impact on its states. and has a clear vision for future climate action. We look forward to seeing it inspire continued leadership, domestically and abroad.