Can the U.S. Still Reach Emission Reduction Goals?

At the moment, the U.S electric power industry is moving away from coal to cheaper options such as renewable energy and natural gas resources. Solar and wind energy is a reality generating new jobs and changing the energy system but until just recently, federal government subsidies had helped in the adoption of these new technologies. Now, however, states and cities seeking to keep lowering greenhouse gas emissions will do so without the help of the federal government.

Some governors had said they will continue to work on the goal of reducing emissions 26 to 28% from 2005 levels and meeting or exceeding the targets of the federal Clean Power Plan.  For example, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, California Gov. Jerry Brown, and Washington State Gov. Jay R. Inslee announced the formation of the United States Climate Alliance, a coalition that will convene U.S. states committed to upholding the Paris Climate Agreement and taking aggressive action on climate change.

“New York State is committed to meeting the standards set forth in the Paris Accord regardless of Washington’s irresponsible actions,” said Gov. Cuomo. “We will not ignore the science and reality of climate change, which is why I am also signing an Executive Order confirming New York’s leadership role in protecting our citizens, our environment, and our planet.”

Cuomo also announced the Clean Climate Careers initiative, a multi-pronged strategy to grow New York’s emerging clean energy economy in partnership with the ILR School’s Worker Institute at Cornell University and Climate Jobs NY. This initiative focuses on accelerating energy efficiency and renewable energy growth to make New York a magnet for new energy technologies and creating 40,000 new, good-paying clean energy jobs by 2020.

Big companies that asked President Trump not to exit the Paris agreement (e.g., Apple, Exxon, Microsoft, Intel, Google, and others) will continue to invest in these technologies and will support cities and states to lower their carbon emissions. They are aware that falling behind in clean energy technology might—in addition to many other important environmental issues—push U.S businesses to rely on carbon and eventually operate at higher cost than competitors using clean energy resources.

Just after the announcement by President Trump, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, “Withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement is bad for the environment, bad for the economy, and it puts our children’s future at risk. For our part, we’ve committed that every new data center we build will be powered by 100% renewable energy. Stopping climate change is something we can only do as a global community, and we have to act together before it’s too late.”

We’ve also heard about philanthropy associations stepping in, such as Bloomberg Philanthropies. “Americans are not walking away from the Paris Climate Agreement,” said Mike Bloomberg, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change “Just the opposite—we are forging ahead. Mayors, governors, and business leaders from both political parties are signing onto a statement of support that we will submit to the UN—and together, we will reach the emission reduction goals the U.S. made in Paris in 2015. As a sign of our commitment, Bloomberg Philanthropies, in partnership with others, will make up the approximately $15 million in funding that the UN’s Climate Secretariat stands to lose from Washington. Americans will honor and fulfill the Paris Agreement by leading from the bottom up—and there isn’t anything Washington can do to stop us.”

Will U.S. companies face boycotts of their products or will other countries put in place a carbon tax on U.S. imports? It is not clear yet what retaliatory measures may occur in the international community. There is uncertainty about the consequences across all sectors in general, but it is clear that a large portion of the American people think that climate change is real enough that they are willing to fight it without the participation of the federal government. I personally think that supporting the Paris Climate Agreement is not just a PR move; rather, it is the best effort we can put forward to protect the future of our planet Earth.

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