United States: (1) Given Federal government withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. US cities, states and businesses need to adopt strong emission reduction pledges (2) Business leaders need to commit to greenhouse gas reductions in all parts of the supply chain; (3) Cities and states need to draft legal regulations that require government to comply with GHG emission reduction standards.
The United States’ current commitment under the Paris Agreement is to a 26-28% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2025. The Climate Action Tracker (prior to rating the US’s commitments “inadequate” due to President Trump’s stated intention to pull out of the Paris Agreement) initially rated the US’s commitments “medium,” and “at the least ambitious end of what would be a fair contribution. This means it is not consistent with limiting warming to below 2°C, let alone with the Paris Agreement’s stronger 1.5°C limit, unless other countries make much deeper reductions and comparably greater effort.” Even if the federal government supported the US’s proposed reductions, they would be less than fair for a country that holds the largest share of the world’s economy.
In response to the federal government’s announcement, states, cities, businesses, organizations, and individuals have come together to announce their pledges to reduce greenhouse gases, many of which have pledged 80 to 100 percent reductions by 2050. It remains to be seen how these pledges will add up, but Michael Bloomberg and California Governor Jerry Brown are confident that the response from the private sector will be at least enough to meet the original INDC committed by the US.
Statements made by business leaders and mayors are important as symbolic commitments to climate action, but words do not achieve results. What is necessary is a strong, decisive commitment to greenhouse gas reductions in all parts of the supply chain. Businesses can do this by committing in their purchasing and distribution to use sustainably-sourced products that require lower greenhouse gas emissions, by reducing transport or offsetting emissions from transport, and by reducing greenhouse gas emissions associated with production. Government leaders of cities and states should draft into law legal requirements as seen in Massachusetts with the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2008 that required the state legally to comply with certain GHG-reducing provisions by 2025.
If the largest businesses in each industry make decisive commitments, it will encourage smaller businesses to do the same in order to remain competitive. Additionally, if enough states make these legal commitments, it will encourage others to follow suit. With luck, the US may exceed its original INDC commitment, despite the President’s direct efforts to undermine it.
“We’re Still In” pledge by mayors, governors, business leaders, and organizations around the country:
“America’s Pledge” launched by Governor Jerry Brown and Michael Bloomberg:
Massachusetts Global Warming Solutions Act:
The RE 100 – list of 100 businesses committed to 100% renewable power: