One Year Later, American Climate Leadership Forges Ahead
June 1, 2018
On June 1, 2017, President Trump announced his intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, leaving the U.S. federal government isolated as the only nation in the world not publicly committed to achieving the targets outlined in the agreement. In the year since then, hundreds of American cities, states, and businesses representing more than half the U.S. economy have come together to take action in support of our Paris goals. Their collective efforts are being aggregated, quantified and reported through the America’s Pledge initiative, co-chaired by UN Special Envoy for Climate Action and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and California Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. One year after Trump’s announcement, U.S. nonfederal leaders are more committed than ever to climate action and are finding new ways to work together to accelerate progress while sharing their stories with the world.
Key Facts: U.S. Climate Action Trends, 2017–2018
- Since Trump announced his intention to pull out of the Paris Agreement in June 2017, over 2,700 leaders from states, cities and businesses—representing 159 million Americans and over half ($6.2 trillion) of the U.S. economy—have continued to act on climate, driving down greenhouse gas emissions and scaling renewables while creating jobs and driving robust economic growth. Source: America’s Pledge analysis.
- In 2017, nonfederal climate action and sustained investment in clean energy technology resulted in energy-related U.S. carbon dioxide emissions falling to their lowest levels in 25 years. The U.S. has cut carbon emissions 14% since 2005, even as the economy has grown 20% in that period. Source: EIA & BEA
- Deployment of clean energy technologies continues to accelerate. Since June 1, 2017, the U.S. has added more than 9 GW of renewable electricity capacity—enough to power more than 2 million homes each year. In the first two months of 2018 alone, the U.S. added 2.1 GW of wind and solar. Meanwhile, more coal retired in the first month of 2018 than retired between 2009 and 2011, inclusive. Source: EIA
- Cities, states and businesses are stepping up to provide climate leadership in dramatic fashion, from implementing carbon-pricing legislation to making ambitious renewable energy commitments. These collective actions are proving that, even in the absence of federal climate leadership, progress can be made both locally and in the private sector. For instance:
- States accounting for 35% of the U.S. economy are expected to put a price on carbon pollution by the end of this year. Hawaii recently became the first state to commit to carbon neutrality, with a target date of 2045.
- Eighty-four cities and counties have committed to sourcing 100% of their electricity from renewable energy. The most recent example is Minneapolis, which in April adopted its goal of achieving 100% renewable electricity by 2030. Source: Sierra Club
- Over 100 companies have announced emissions reduction targets in line with the Paris Agreement, including some of the world’s largest emitters. Twenty-five of these companies are headquartered in the U.S. Source: Science Based Targets
- The rest of the world is forging ahead. After Trump’s announcement, the other 19 members of the G20, including countries as varied as China, Japan, Germany and Saudi Arabia, closed ranks to reaffirm their “irreversible” commitment to the Paris Agreement. The last two remaining countries not yet committed to the Agreement—Nicaragua and Syria—signed on, and diplomats from 195 countries are expected to finalize the detailed implementation arrangement of the Agreement this fall.
Looking Ahead: Driving Toward America’s Low-Carbon Future Through Nonfederal Climate Action
At the November 2017 UN Climate Conference in Bonn, Germany, Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Brown unveiled the “America’s Pledge Phase 1 report,” the most comprehensive survey ever of U.S. climate action led by states, cities and businesses.
In September 2018, at the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, they will release a second, more comprehensive report showing how these actions are helping to drive U.S. emissions downward. This report will also showcase the significant untapped potential for nonfederal leadership to help the U.S. reduce emissions consistent with the scientific imperative to hold global warming to well below 2°C.
Even prior to the final analysis, it is clear that there is significant running room for the U.S. to accelerate climate action achieved through the leadership of cities, states, businesses and others. For instance:
- In many regions, it is now cheaper to build new wind and solar than new fossil generation. The U.S. is projected to install 60 GW of solar capacity through 2022 and 60 GW of wind through 2026. Given favorable market conditions, states, cities, and businesses have the opportunity to set more ambitious renewable energy targets. Sources: EIA, Energy Institute, AWEA, GTM
- Since 2016, nearly every forecast for electric vehicle (EV) growth has increased dramatically as costs have dropped and consumer demand has increased. Bloomberg New Energy Finance projects that 27 million EVs will be on U.S. roads by 2030 and will increase nearly fivefold to reach 119 million by 2040. Nonfederal actors can help boost this potential through vehicle mandates, subsidies, infrastructure and government procurement. Source: BNEF
- Through policies promoting smart growth, building efficiency, and increased public transportation, S. cities could reduce emissions by 200 MMTCO2e annually by 2025, and 480 MMTCO2e annually by 2035. Source: NREL
- Oil and gas operations are responsible for nearly 300 MMTCO2e of emissions annually in the U.S. but up to 45% of this—equivalent to removing 140 MMTCO2e by 2030—could be captured at low or no cost through policies, such as Colorado’s, requiring technology improvements and monitoring for leaks. Source: EPA
- Until recently, the power sector was responsible for the greatest share of U.S. carbon emissions. But thanks to cheaper, cleaner sources and a bottom-up, citizen-led campaign to force the additional, early retirement of coal-fired electricity generating units, 268 (more than half) of all 523 coal plants operating in the U.S. 2011 have been secured for retirement as of May 2018. If plant retirements continue at the same pace as from 2017-2025, up to 477 MMTCO2e could be cut from the power sector. Source: Sierra Club
At the Global Climate Action Summit, Michael Bloomberg and Governor Jerry Brown will release a first-of-its-kind “bottom up” climate action analysis for the U.S. economy that explores emissions abatement potential across the sectors listed above, in addition to others. The report will detail:
- Existing commitments and their impact: How nonfederal climate commitments are driving emissions outcomes at a national level
- Opportunities for high ambition: A roadmap of opportunities for governors, mayors, and CEOs to lead climate action while advancing the interests of their citizens, customers, and shareholders
- Emissions analysis: Projected U.S. emissions trajectory through 2025 and 2030 under existing and potential additional nonfederal action as well as with renewed federal engagement
- Leadership case studies: How some of America’s most innovative states, cities and companies are delivering on their existing commitments and showing the way for their peers
The Global Perspective: America’s Pledge and Best Practices for Other Countries
In 2018, the America’s Pledge initiative will also increase its focus on carrying the lessons of nonfederal leadership beyond U.S. borders. While national governments and policies were in the spotlight during the run-up to the 2015 Paris Agreement at COP21, the focus of international climate negotiations has now shifted to a more detailed examination of what it will take to formulate and implement increasingly ambitious national climate goals.
U.S. federal politics have forced American states, regions, cities and companies to take an even larger lead in this process. In doing so, they are creating a road map for subnational and nonstate actors worldwide to drive innovation and ambition for more aggressive action in their own national economies. This is especially important as parties to the Paris Agreement face a 2020 deadline for deciding whether to revise their pledges—Nationally Determined Contributions—under the Paris Agreement upward.