United States Subnational Best Practices

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California—California’s work has had the most impact on national emissions, because of its large population and strong state policy. California’s Assembly Bill 32: the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 set a target of reducing emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, representing a 15% reduction in 2006-level emissions in a period of 14 years. Implementation is supported by a core “Climate Action Team,” which includes 18 state government departments working hard to reduce state-wide emissions. It is largely funded by a fee collected from the highest emitting sources in California, namely power plants and factories. As one of the first emissions reduction plans in the US, Bill 32 is at the forefront of the fight against climate change and sets an example for the rest of the nation to follow.

The California Energy Commission is also a strong player in the fight against climate change. The Commission runs California’s Renewable Energy Program, including the Renewables Portfolio Standard. The Renewables Portfolio Act requires that all electricity retailers obtain a minimum of 33% of their electricity from renewables by 2020. This works as a huge level of support for renewable electricity generation, and has worked to expand capacity not only in California, but in other states as well. Another important initiative in the fight against climate change is the Western Renewable Energy Generation Information System, inspired by California’s Renewables Portfolio Act, which is based in Salt Lake City and works to certify electricity in the western US as “green” while helping to expand capacity throughout the western region.

Because emissions from electricity generation represent the largest proportion of all US emissions, California’s actions to encourage renewable electricity generation while also requiring an overall emissions reduction represents a strong step forward in the fight against climate change, and works as an example to states across the country who may follow its lead.

In a show of defiance to the incoming Trump administration, California Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat, and legislative leaders said they would work directly with other nations and states to defend and strengthen what were already far and away the most aggressive policies to fight climate change in the nation. That includes a legislatively mandated target of reducing carbon emissions in California to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

“California can make a significant contribution to advancing the cause of dealing with climate change, irrespective of what goes on in Washington,” Mr. Brown said in an interview. “I wouldn’t underestimate California’s resolve if everything moves in this extreme climate denial direction. Yes, we will take action.” (NY Times Dec 28 Adam Nagourney and Henry Fountain, California at Forefront of Climate Fight, Won’t Back Down to Trump.”
Alana Matthews, Public Advisor
Telephone: 916-654-4489
Email: publicadviser@energy.ca.gov

New York—New York leads the nation in reducing emissions from transportation, with a state-wide vehicle miles traveled reduction target. The state also has stringent goals for reducing emissions, with a 40% overall reduction by 2030 with a 50% reduction by 2050, including a standard for 50% of electricity generated in New York to come from renewables. New York also emphasizes not only generation of energy, but end-use efficiency—the plan includes a target for a 23% decrease from 2012 levels in energy consumption of buildings.

A large portion of New York State’s success comes from New York City’s success in reducing emissions, and its stringent goals for the future. Together, the city and state lead the way in improving end use efficiency and conservation to reduce the overall amount of energy required, and therefore continue to reduce emissions.

Telephone: 518-862-1090
Email: info@nyserda.ny.gov

Massachusetts—Massachusetts is at the forefront of emissions reductions, with a plan signed into law in 2008 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25% of 2005 levels by 2020, with a 80% reduction plan by 2050 to follow. By 2012, the state had already achieved a 24% emissions reduction, and is on target to overshoot its 2020 target.

A large contributor to the reductions is an increase in end-use efficiency, and another is the growth in renewable electricity generation. Recently, the state passed “An Act to Promote Energy Diversity,” a bill requiring the state to generate 1,600 megawatts from offshore wind. Construction of “Cape Wind,” a new offshore wind farm with a capacity of 468 megawatts, will begin soon.

Massachusetts has one of the most aggressive emissions reduction targets in the country, and works hard to create policies that will support these reductions. Based on its success so far, the state can stand as an example to other states in the nation to achieve their own reductions through policy and efficiency.

Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
Telephone: (617) 626-1000
Email: env.internet@state.ma.us

Learn More

California Assembly Bill 32:

California Energy Commission:

New York State Energy Plan:

Massachusetts Global Warming Solutions Act:


Boston, Massachusetts—Boston has committed to a 25% GHG emissions reduction by 2020, and an 80% reduction by 2050. The city hit its 2020 goal in 2014, and is currently aiming for a 35% emissions reduction goal. The city is committed to expanding its energy efficiency programs, increasing local and low-carbon energy sources—including direct energy and co-generation, and reducing emissions from public transportation, while reducing overall emissions from both residential and commercial buildings. Currently, the city has 14.3MW of installed solar power, and hopes to generate 15% of its energy from cogeneration by 2020. It has also committed to reducing vehicle miles traveled 5.5% from 2005 levels by 2020.

Boston’s Climate Action Plan can be found here: www.cityofboston.gov/eeos/pdfs/Greenovate Boston 2014 CAP Update_Full.pdf

Burlington, Vermont—Although Burlington is not a member of the Compact of Mayors, it is the first city in the US to be powered by 100% renewable energy. The city is also committed to reducing its GHG emissions from transportation to reduce its overall emissions.

Burlington’s Climate Action Plan can be found here: https://www.burlingtonvt.gov/sites/default/files/CEDO/Sustainability/Climate%20Action%20Plan.pdf

New York, New York—New York City’s #OneNYC plan includes sustainability as one of its four pillars, and has so far been successful in accomplishing many of its goals, while maintaining a strict commitment to future targets. It is committed to an 80% GHG emissions reduction by 2050, with a commitment to reducing emissions from buildings 30% by 2025. In 2015, the city completely phased out the use of No. 6 fuel oil, the “dirtiest fuel oil,” and planted 1,000,000 new trees. Between 2013 and 2016, New York’s solar energy capacity tripled to become 75MW. Additionally, the city is committed to sending zero waste to landfills by 2030, and between 2014-2015 it increased the number of recycled goods by 5% while expanding its curbside organics collection program by more than 700,000 homes.

New York’s #OneNYC plan can be found here: http://www1.nyc.gov/html/onenyc/index.html

Oakland, California—Oakland is committed to a 36% reduction in GHG emissions from 2005 levels by 2020 and an 83% reduction by 2050. The commitment will be fulfilled through a reduction in vehicle miles traffic; a decrease in electricity consumption through renewable generation, conservation, and efficiency; a decrease in natural gas consumption through retrofitting buildings, expanding solar hot water capacity, and natural gas conservation. Additionally, the city will divert waste from landfills through waste reduction, reuse, recycling, and composting. By 2015, the city had reduced its GHG emissions by 14%.

Oakland’s Climate Action Plan can be found here: https://data.bloomberglp.com/mayors/sites/14/2015/08/Oakland-action-plan.pdf

Portland, Oregon—Portland is committed to a 40% GHG emissions reduction by 2030 and an 80% reduction by 2050. By 2015, the city had reduced its emissions 14% from 1990 levels, with a 29% reduction in gasoline usage since 1990, and 3 million new trees planted since 1996. Additionally, the city’s overall recycling rate is 70% and currently over 250 green building projects are in progress.

Portland’s Climate Action Plan can be found here: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/article/531994

San Francisco, California—San Francisco is committed to an 80% reduction by 2050, with a commitment to supplying 100% of residential and 80% of commercial electricity from renewable sources by 2050. The city is also committed to reducing automobile travel 50% by 2017 and 80% by 2030. The San Francisco Energy Watch program helps businesses and individuals to complete energy efficiency projects, and by 2016 they had reduced GHG emissions by 53,367 mT. By 2015, San Francisco had reduced its citywide emissions 14.5% of 1995 levels.

San Francisco’s Climate Action Strategy can be found here: http://sfenvironment.org/sites/default/files/engagement_files/sfe_cc_ClimateActionStrategyUpdate2013.pdf

Seattle, Washington—Seattle is committed to reducing its GHG emissions 58% by 2030 and 100% by 2050. In order to accomplish its aggressive emissions reduction targets, it has incorporated input from community groups and individuals when writing its climate action plans. Seattle is committed to expanding public transit and walking/biking infrastructure. It is also committed to a 10% reduction in energy use of commercial buildings and a 20% reduction in energy use of residential buildings by 2030. Additionally, the city requires minimum energy performance standards for newly-constructed buildings and retrofitting of existing buildings to increase efficiency and reduce waste heat.

Seattle’s climate action plan can be found here: https://www.bbhub.io/mayors/sites/14/2015/08/2013_CAP_20130612.pdf

Washington D.C.—Washington DC is committed to an 80% GHG emissions reduction by 2050. By 2032, the district has committed to decreasing energy use by 50% and increasing the use of renewable energy by 50%, supplying 25% of the district’s food from within 100 miles of the city, and increasing public transit, walking, and biking to 75% of all commuter trips.

Washington D.C.’s sustainability plan can be found here: http://www.sustainabledc.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/sustainable-dc-summary.pdf


US Climate Action Network—The goal of the Climate Action Network is to bring together a “bigger, better, and broader” network of organizations and communities working to combat climate change. The network includes over 150 organizations representing every state and climate interest.

Website:  http://www.usclimatenetwork.org/about-us/members


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