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Subnational Leadership ‘Essential’ in Climate, COVID-19 Crises

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer

Informed, cooperative, and compassionate bipartisan leadership at all governmental levels is helping U.S. citizens weather the pandemic, just as such subnational leadership has proven to be an essential agent in the climate crisis fight.

COVID-19 is “a time of rapid learning,” writes the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI)—learning demanded by a crisis that is “affecting the health and wellness of families all over the world, straining medical systems, upending lives, creating massive unemployment, and generating an air of fear and uncertainty.”

Thankfully, leaders in many state and local governments across the United States are proving most able students, “taking matters into their own hands by implementing bold actions in their jurisdictions to keep people safe and help flatten the curve.”

Crucially, these leaders are also alert to conversations and actions beyond their jurisdictions, “monitoring national and international decisions and… influencing those decisions by demonstrating local leadership on how to deal with this crisis.” Such local political efforts are currently encouraging “approximately 175 million people in 17 states, 26 counties, and 10 cities” to shelter in place for the common good, reports RMI. 

These local successes have common ground with recent demonstrations of the power of subnational leadership in the battle against climate change.

A prime example of such efforts is the We Are Still In campaign, which “brings together U.S. cities, states, tribes, businesses, universities, health care organizations, faith groups, and others that are committed to supporting climate action to meet the Paris Agreement,” writes RMI. According to a recent report by America’s Pledge, a Bloomberg Philanthropies initiative co-led by RMI, a prosperous and low-carbon future for the United States “can be realized by building on the foundations of existing climate leadership from U.S. states, cities, businesses, and other subnational actors representing 65% of the U.S. population and nearly 70% of the country’s GDP—and accelerated further still through successful federal re-engagement on climate policies and actions.”

[The beginning of that re-engagement is just 203 sleeps away. And I say that in the most non-partisan way possible. Is your countdown app keeping you up to date?—Ed.]

Furthermore, adds RMI, “a key takeaway from the America’s Pledge analysis is that the collective actions of many smaller entities really do add up to globally significant impact. Likewise, the collective actions of many are what it’s going to take for the world to successfully fight against COVID-19.”

While national leadership is still imperative in the battles against both COVID-19 and the climate crisis, local subnational leaders are proving, and will continue to prove, to be crucial agents in the struggle, RMI says.