With 2,500 cities around the world and politicians in 45 U.S. states onboard, the march toward implementation of the Paris agreement is continuing in the aftermath of Donald Trump’s decision to blunder his country out of the landmark global deal.
“More than 2,500 cities have now listed climate change pledges on the Non-State Actor Zone for Climate Action (NAZCA) portal launched as part of the 2014 Lima-Paris Action Agenda,” Greentech Media reports, citing a new study by banking giant HSBC.
“We think this is extremely important,” the report states, “because [non-state actors] can move quicker in implementing climate change policies and measures.”
Greentech notes that cities and non-state actors are also more accountable to local electors and have greater control over the budgets they assign to climate change mitigation, though some of them are finding it tough to implement their own climate objectives.
But they’re also motivated to get the job done: Metropolitan areas account for 70% of greenhouse gas emissions, many of them already experience air quality problems responsible for more than three million premature deaths per year, and they’re at ground zero for many of the impacts of climate change.
“With many major cities in coastal areas, 71% of the world’s population might be exposed to rising sea levels by 2025,” Greentech notes. “In Latin America, the proportion of the population living in low-elevation coastal zones could be as high as 90%,” all leading to asset risks that could total US$35 trillion by 2070. HSBC also expects city populations to be more vulnerable to extreme heat, vector-borne disease, and increased levels of allergy.
At this week’s Metropolis World Conference in Montreal, Mayor Denis Coderre thanked Trump for a “nonsense” decision on Paris that has mobilized other levels of government to take action. “Trump has weakened his own presidency,” Coderre added later, during a roundtable that featured Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo.
Trudeau cast Canada as an example of the sub-national leadership that emerges when national governments abandon the field on climate.
“We only have to remember where we were two years ago here in Canada. We had a Conservative government that refused to talk about climate change, that rejected Kyoto,” he told the conference. “For 10 years, it was the provinces and the big cities that led the charge and demonstrated leadership in the absence of the federal government.”
That impetus continues to build in the United States. In an analysis last week, Carbon Brief concluded that U.S. states and cities have a role in a large enough share of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions to meet the country’s Paris targets in the absence of federal action.
“Nearly 40% of U.S. CO2 emissions are in the hands of states that have either committed to meeting their share of the U.S.’s Paris agreement target or who have established their own ambitious long-term emission reduction goals,” the UK-based editorial and research team reports. “Should they have the political will, states possess all the levers of power needed to reduce emissions enough to meet the 26-28% CO2 reductions below 2005 levels by 2025 that the U.S. committed to under the Paris agreement. However, states are divided politically, with about half committing to deep carbon reductions and about half with little or no controls on greenhouse gas emissions.”
That coordinated effort was also the focus of a letter this week from state legislators in 45 states, representing more than 298 million U.S. citizens, all expressing their opposition to Trump’s Paris pullout. The 15-page PDF leads with a page containing 45 state crests, followed by the one-page communiqué. The remaining 13 pages are all signatories.
“Now more than ever, in the wake of this short-sighted decision by the federal administration, it is important that state and local governments come together to strengthen our resolve to meet our regional goals to reduce carbon pollution and our national goals to achieve the reductions agreed to in Paris in 2015,” the legislators write. “We stand with the 292 United States mayors representing more than 60 million Americans, the governors of 12 states with a total population of over 102 million, and 194 countries committed to upholding the ambitious goals adopted in the Paris agreement.” They say they also “explicitly refuse to stand” with Donald Trump in his repudiation of the Paris deal.
The state officials add that “climate change is not a conspiracy, a hoax, or a partisan cause. Climate change will not affect just a few low-lying countries and the polar regions. Climate change is real and caused by human activity. People around the world and here in our own country, in our own states, in our own communities have already experienced the impacts and will see significantly increased impacts in the coming decades.”