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US climate change pledges: What America’s states are doing without Trump

The Paris Agreement looks set to go ahead without the support of America, with Donald Trump having pulled out of the international commitment last year - but many states throughout the country are dedicated to fulfilling the US climate change pledges and have introduced multiple policies, projects and contingencies to see this happen

When America’s president Donald Trump announced his intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement last year, the worldwide effort to halt global warming was put at risk. Now the country’s local governments are subverting their leader by working individually to fulfil the US climate change pledges.

Clean energy stalwarts such as California and Hawaii are leading the way in this regard, implementing statewide protocols specifically targeted at proliferating renewable energy and minimising pollution.

New York, led by Governor Andrew Cuomo, is also pouring billions of dollars into climate change solutions and projects.

If these states, their neighbours, and the cities and businesses within them meet the targets they have set to cut carbon pollution, emissions would drop to 17% below 2005 levels by 2025, according to a recent report.

This would go a long way to filling the void left by America’s absence in the Paris Agreement – the international pact aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and cap the rise in global temperature at “well below” 2C above pre-industrial levels.

Here are the states most critical to seeing this potential outcome through to fruition.

 

US climate change pledges: California

On 10 September, Governor of California Jerry Brown signed a bill requiring the state’s electricity to be exclusively generated by carbon-free sources by 2045, shortly after having raised its goal for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030.

us climate change pledges
Governor of California Jerry Brown (Credit: Wikipedia/State of California)

And Californians appear to be behind these policies, with more than 75% recognising that global warming is happening and 77% supporting the regulation of carbon dioxide as a pollutant, while 83% are in favour of renewable energy according to the Yale Map Project on Climate Change Communication.

California is the market leader in solar energy within the US, having ranked first in 2016 in terms of state solar capacity, with more than 19,000 megawatts (MW) powering over 4.8 million homes.

Two years earlier, the state ranked 49th in America for low energy consumption, in large part due to its various energy efficiency programmes, and in 2015 it built on this by passing a renewable portfolio standard which requires energy companies to generate 50% of their sales from renewable sources by 2030.

 

US climate change pledges: Washington

Washington state has already warmed by between 1C and 2C over the past century, according to a study by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Its government has reacted accordingly, spurring it to 9th in the country for wind energy production, with 3,075MW of installed capacity, while leading it to 30th for solar, with a 96MW capacity and 3,700 jobs tied to the clean energy source across the state.

Additionally, it’s home to the Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River, which is the largest hydroelectric power facility in the US, generating a total capacity of 6,809MW.

Washington’s private sector is also extremely dedicated to curbing climate change, with Redmond’s Helion Energy being one of the first company’s in the world to use nuclear fusion research to create clean energy.

In Skamania County, the Wind River Biomass Utility generates power using wood biomass fuel, while Bellingham is home to a non-profit facility that seeks to make buildings healthier and more energy efficient.

us climate change pledges
The Grand Coulee Dam on Washington’s Columbia River (Credit: Flickr/David Brodbeck)

US climate change pledges: Hawaii

America’s island state Hawaii is particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels caused by climate change, which have increased by between two and eight inches while exacerbating threats like hurricanes and tsunamis.

In 2015, with 86% of its citizens in favour of increased spending on renewable energy sources, the state became the first in US history to commit to 100% clean energy – setting 2045 as the eventual deadline. The commitment was solidified with a bill in 2018.

Also in 2015, Hawaii generated more solar electricity per capita than any other state, with the renewable energy source accounting for 35% of its total electricity output.

Today, the state’s solar ecosystem remains strong, with a total capacity of 674MW – enough to power 170,000 homes – and 3,200 people employed across 123 companies within the industry.

In 2007, Hawaii enacted a policy to cap greenhouse gas emissions to the 1990 level by 2020, and one year later it launched a Clean Energy Initiative geared towards establishing a 70% clean-energy economy within a generation.

 

US climate change pledges: New York

In January 2018, New York’s governor Andrew Cuomo announced the single largest commitment to renewable energy by a state in US history with a $1.4bn (£1.1bn) investment to fund 26 projects across New York.

These include 22 utility-scale solar farms, three wind farms and one hydroelectric project that, when combined, have the potential to power more than 430,000 homes and create over 3,000 jobs.

Also early this year, New York City’s Mayor Bill de Blasio announced plans to divest $5bn (£3.8bn) from fossil fuels, removing any and all pension fund investment from non-renewable energy companies.

He said: “New York City is standing up for future generations by becoming the first major US city to divest our pension funds from fossil fuels.”

us climate change pledges
New York governor Andrew Cuomo (Credit: Wikipedia/Pat Arnow)

In addition to this, the state will also remove $5bn (£3.8bn) from its fossil fuel pension fund investments, it will also put $4bn (£3bn) from its pension funds into climate change solutions.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and comptroller Scott Stringer, who oversees the city’s more than $195bn (£150bn) pension fund, announced the investment on 12 September, the money from which will fund initiatives in renewable energy and clean water over the next three years.

 

US climate change pledges: Florida

In 2008, Florida created a climate adaption plan that set out 28 goals – three of which have been completed, while 13 are in progress.

It includes various targets for increasing renewable energy projects and generation, improving coastal and land-based ecosystem and habitat resilience, and heightening climate-focused professional education requirements.

One of Florida’s primary ambitions, however, is to reduce its power sector’s emissions by 26% from 2012 levels by 2030, as per its Clean Power Plan formed six years ago.

The state also enacted the We Are Still In declaration, which expresses its commitment to realising the goals of the Paris Agreement in spite of Trump’s actions.

Currently, 12 cities across Florida are signed to the declaration, while Sarasota and St Petersburg have also overtly committed to transitioning to 100% renewable energy sources.