WASHINGTON, DC – Even in the face of congressional obstruction, state governments and federal rules are playing a major role in U.S. progress to address climate change, a new report said today. In the next decade, existing state policies and federal measures such as the Clean Power Plan will cut carbon pollution by 1.1 billion metric tons, or 27 percent from 2005 levels.
The Environment America Research & Policy Center report comes as pressure mounts on the U.S. to play a leading role in negotiations for an international climate agreement in Paris.
“On climate action, the best way to lead is by example,” said Anna Aurilio, program director for Environment America’s Global Warming Solutions program. “With help from nearly every state around the country, that’s exactly what the U.S. is doing.”
The analysis, Path to the Paris Climate Conference: American Progress in Cutting Carbon Pollution Could Pave the Way for Global Action, documents expected carbon pollution reductions from a range of policies already enacted at the state and federal levels, including state renewable energy standards and fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks.
Nearly half of the expected reductions will come from the Clean Power Plan, the proposed federal limits on carbon pollution from power plants expected to become final this summer. The plan will cut carbon pollution by 542 million tons by limiting emissions from power plants and accelerating the transition to clean energy sources such as wind and solar.
Unfortunately, fossil fuel interests and their allies in Congress are trying to block the Clean Power Plan, with the full House and two Senate committees voting this month to derail it. The votes came despite efforts from climate champions such as Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico.
“The Clean Power Plan can help provide what every New Mexican wants for our children: clean air, fresh water and good health. And it allows each state to shape our own path to lower carbon emissions based on their unique situations,” said U.S. Senator Tom Udall, D-N.M. “Despite the partisan and special interest attacks, I’ll keep fighting to ensure we seize the opportunity now to spur innovation and job creation, strengthen industries New Mexico does well, like solar, wind and biofuels, and build a clean energy future for the generations to come.”
Economy-wide caps on carbon pollution implemented at the state and regional levels and energy-efficiency policies will also contribute to major reductions in carbon pollution over the next decade, cutting pollution by 242 million metric tons and 235 million metric tons, respectively.
States poised to do the most to cut their carbon pollution by 2025 included recognized leaders on clean energy policy such as California, which is responsible for 40 percent of the projected cuts in carbon emissions.
“California is paving the path to Paris with concrete policies on climate change that build the economy of tomorrow, and we are planting road signs on how to get there for the rest of the world to follow, “ said California Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon. “From our ambitious goals to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, to spurring a boom in energy efficiency and use of renewables, we are also focusing resources to fight environmental degradation in our poorest communities. California is showing how it’s done.”
The report also shows how critical it is that states like Texas, Ohio and Florida -- who have a large carbon footprint -- faithfully implement the Clean Power Plan and follow through with state-level clean energy policies. In terms of total tons of pollution expected to be reduced over the next ten years, Ohio ranks fourth and Texas ranks second.
According to the report, existing state and federal policies will get the U.S. within striking distance of its commitment to cut all global warming pollution, not only carbon pollution, by 26 to 28 percent in by 2025.
To avoid devastating impacts of climate change, scientists estimate that an 80 percent cut in global warming pollution will be necessary by mid-century. As the report notes, a more rapid transition to clean energy sources, beyond those already required by existing policies, will be required to achieve these reductions.
Critical to implementing the policies already adopted to cut carbon are the nation’s mayors. These local elected officials, who often deal most directly with extreme weather and other climate impacts, are also among the leaders pushing for U.S. leadership and a strong climate agreement in Paris.
"Though important strides have been made, a sharp reduction in carbon dioxide pollution remains a priority," said Mayor Rick Kriseman of St. Petersburg, Fla."And while local governments can effect change, a crisis like climate change calls for leadership from President Obama and his global counterparts."
“Mayors are uniquely compelled and equipped to lead on the fight to stem climate change, as well as to adapt to it and prepare for climate impacts,” said Houston Mayor Annise Parker. “Our achievements are a great start, but we must not stop there. We ask all of our fellow mayors across the globe to join our effort and call for a strong climate agreement in Paris.”
“We are implementing a comprehensive sustainability plan, tracking and reporting greenhouse gas emissions, making investments in energy efficiency and clean energy, and developing a climate adaptation plan. And we are seeing results: transit ridership is at a 25-year high, and our air is the cleanest it has been in decades,” said Michael Nutter, Mayor of Philadelphia. “All of this is happening while we grow both our population and economy. But we must do more. Through the Mayor's National Climate Change Agenda and the Compact of Mayors, my colleagues and I are coming together to call for strong U.S. leadership on climate.”
“With support from mayors, state leaders, and the public, we can be proud of the progress America is making to cut global warming pollution,” said Aurilio. “The United States must build on that progress in Paris to ensure a better, healthier future for our climate and our children.”