U.S. STATES' RESPONSE TO CLIMATE CHANGE COMPENSATING FOR TRUMP'S OSTRICHISM

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9 october 2017


As Trump Retreats, States Are Joining Forces on Climate Action


Despite the Trump administration’s environmental rollback, U.S. states are forging ahead with initiatives to combat climate change. Now, a coalition of states – from California to Colorado to North Carolina – are banding together to slash emissions and boost renewable energy.

By Elizabeth Shogren, Yale Environment 360, October 9, 2017

Just hours after President Trump’s Rose Garden speech in June announcing plans to withdraw from the 2015 Paris climate agreement, the governors of three states — California, Washington, and New York — announced their remedy. They formed the U.S. Climate Alliance, and called on other states to join them in continuing to push ahead on fighting climate change.

“It only took two nanoseconds,” Washington Governor Jay Inslee said in an interview with Yale Environment 360. “We heard the president wanted to run up the white flag of surrender. We wanted to send a strong message to the world: We’re not going to surrender.”

The Trump administration was already in the midst of an aggressive effort to roll back nearly every climate change initiative of President Barack Obama, including the Clean Power Plan, designed to reduce emissions from the nation’s electricity sector 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. In Virginia, Governor Terry McAuliffe responded by ordering state officials to draft a rule to create a cap-and-trade program for carbon pollution from the state’s power sector. “Virginia cannot and will not stand idly by while the federal government abdicates its role,” he said.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee (center) flanked by then-Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin (left) and California Governor Jerry Brown at the Paris climate summit in 2015.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee (center) flanked by then-Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin (left) and California Governor Jerry Brown at the Paris climate summit in 2015. COP Paris/Flickr

In the void created by Trump, states are stepping up to become bigger players in the climate battle, both individually and by joining together. The U.S. Climate Alliance, which has grown to include 14 states and Puerto Rico, plans to collaborate on a broad range of greenhouse gas-cutting initiatives, such as creating new mechanisms for financing clean-energy projects, updating electric grids to better accommodate wind and solar power, improving construction standards to reduce electricity use by buildings, and hastening the transition to electric vehicles. The alliance states also plan to boost communities’ resilience to the more damaging natural disasters that are a consequence of climate change, including mapping the risks posed by sea level rise, storm surge, and extreme precipitation.

These efforts will add to momentum already underway in alliance states, such as California’s recent extension of its economy-wide cap-and-trade program and a proposal by nine Eastern states to continue their Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) until 2030. RGGI states have cut electricity-related greenhouse gas emissions nearly in half since 2009, and under the proposal, they would further reduce greenhouse gas emissions from electricity 30 percent below 2020 levels by 2030.

Without federal leadership, such state-level initiatives have become much more important, both for constraining carbon emissions and for discouraging other countries from following Trump’s lead. “The way I think they’re most significant is as a signal to the rest of the world,” says Robert Stavins, a Harvard University professor of environmental economics. “What would be disastrous is if China, India, and Brazil … decide to be less ambitious, rescind, or drop out.”

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