Subnational Leaders Say United States is “Still In” on Climate
California Governor Jerry Brown has emerged as one of the central subnational leaders on climate change, leading the effort to unite U.S. states, cities, and businesses with international leaders to address the defining problem of our time: climate change. President Trump’s announcement that the United States will withdraw from the Paris Agreement was coupled with rollbacks of emission federal reduction efforts. Climate and clean energy diplomacy in the United States now rests in the hands of subnational leaders, and Governor Brown has supported a range of initiatives to ensure that Americans have a seat at the table to fill the void left by the current administration.
The United States is the world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gases driving climate change, so the commitment of leaders at the state and local levels to join the global fight against climate change is paramount to the Paris Agreement’s success and — ultimately, the future of our species.
Governor Brown recently traveled to Europe to speak with transatlantic partners on clean energy. While in Europe, Governor Brown spoke with the German Marshall Fund (GMF) in Brussels about his climate leadership efforts, including his Global Climate Action Summit planned for September 2018. The Summit, which is supported by the UN, will convene subnational governments and business leaders from around the world to commit to further emissions reductions and help nations raise the level of ambition of their own commitments. “We’re part of the UN process now,” said Governor Brown of these efforts and their larger implications. The conversation at GMF clearly demonstrated a step to outline for European audiences a U.S. commitment to strengthen transatlantic cooperation on urban, regional, national, and global challenges.
While in Europe, Governor Brown met with Baden-Württemberg Minister-President Winfried Kretschmann, his Under2 Coalition co-founder, in Stuttgart, Germany and delivered remarks before the state parliament. The Under2 Coalition is a pact of states, regions, and countries committed to keeping the global temperature average increase to below 2 degrees Celsius. Under2 leaders have brought international attention to efforts made at the subnational level demonstrating the collective impact of actions taken at state and local levels.
As the COP23 special advisor for states and regions, Governor Brown announced at the conference the expansion of Under2 Coalition and reaffirmed states and cities’ commitment to the Paris Agreement. The Coalition now includes over 200 states and provinces that represent 40 percent of the world’s GDP. His message to the world that “We’re here, we’re in and we’re not going away” rang loud and clear.
Additionally, Governor Brown participated with business and government leaders on the Zero Emission Vehicle Alliance panel. During his opening remarks, Governor Brown discussed the importance of reducing overall carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions. State and local leaders who participate in the Under2 Coalition commit to lowering their carbon emissions, and California leads through example.
Governor Brown recently signed a series of state laws aimed at boosting zero-emission vehicles as a necessary element in helping the state meet ambitious emissions reduction targets. These initiatives include greater access to carpool lanes for alternative fuel vehicles with only a single occupant and pilot programs for electric vehicle charging stations. Governor Brown announced that California’s goal is to reduce its emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.
A significant global reduction in emissions will require sweeping policy changes. As Governor Brown aptly stated, “Carbon pollution is a common threat that binds America and Europe and China and India and Africa — all the countries of the world … If we rise to take on that common threat we will come closer together."
While in Bonn, Governor Brown joined America’s Pledge co-founder and United Nations Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change Michael Bloomberg to reaffirm the commitment of America’s states, cities and businesses to the Paris Agreement. America’s Pledge quantifies the actions of states, cities and businesses in the United States to drive down emissions and details the scope of non-federal climate action in the United States. In Bonn, they were joined by a bipartisan group of governors Andrew Cuomo of New York, Jay Inslee of Washington, Kate Brown of Oregon, and Terry McAuliffe of Virginia, and several U.S. mayors.
America’s Pledge reveals that American cities, states and business — that make up more than half of the national population and economy — support the Paris Agreement. The report examines current and future opportunities for non-federal actors in the United States to deepen their role in meeting the U.S. commitment under the Paris Agreement to reduce emissions by 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. “America’s Pledge is filling the gap left by Donald Trump’s statement that he was to pull out of Paris,” said Governor Brown. Indeed, America’s Pledge filled this gap in a very direct way: Since the U.S. federal government did not open a pavilion at this year's UN climate summit (COP23), America’s Pledge and its coalition of U.S. subnational leaders and CEOs opened their own unofficial pavilion under the banner “America's Pledge: We Are Still In.”
States and cities have an outsized role to play in solving global governance problems. Progress made by American subnational leaders, such as Governor Brown, to continue pursuing climate change action and diplomacy is essential. However, much is left to be done to pursue an ambitious response to the challenge of climate change. These collective actions from governors and mayors both domestically and abroad show that U.S. subnational leaders are leading from the front.
Further Reading: Subnational Leaders Take Charge on Climate
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