Off the Trump Train: Cities, States, can Meet Paris Goals without US Help

June 17, 2017


While the Trump Train trundles back  into the nineteenth century, a lot of cities and states in the US are making their own alliances with countries, cities and provinces around the world to insure that Paris Climate goals are met.
In doing so, they are declaring that they still believe in technology, and are open for business. Below are several very rich and rewarding links for further reading, of which I’ve excerpted only small slices.

Zeke Hausfather in Carbon Brief:

Nearly 40% of US CO2 emissions are in the hands of states that have either committed to meeting their share of the US’s Paris Agreement target or who have established their own ambitious long-term emission reduction goals, a Carbon Brief analysis has found. These states account for 30% of US power sector emissions, 47% of its transportation sector emissions and 38% of emissions from buildings and factories.

With the decision by the Trump administration to withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement on climate change and reverse many of the prior administration’s climate change policies, it seems that federal action on climate change will be unlikely in the next few years.


However, the US system of government gives individual states broad powers to regulate CO2 emissions within their borders, with many states actively moving forward with their own mitigation strategies in absence of federal action.

This group, called the US Climate Alliance (USCA), has pledged to take action to reduce their own emissions at least 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025. Collectively, these states directly control around 19% of US CO2 emissions. Around 300 cities have also announced their support of efforts to meet US Paris commitments.

Around the same time, a group of 125 cities, 9 states and more than a thousand businesses joined the We Are Still In open letter organised by former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg, committing to work together “to take forceful action and to ensure that the US remains a global leader in reducing emissions” in the absence of leadership from Washington DC.

Additionally, ten states that are not part of the USCA have passed laws or executive orders establishing emission targets ranging from 60% to 80% reductions in CO2 emissions by 2050. These include Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey and New Mexico.

California has established its own cap-and-trade programme covering approximately 85% of state emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases. It is linked to the cap-and-trade system in Quebec, Canada.

States can effectively regulate the price of electricity for all residents through state utility commissions. They can ensure that power purchases and end-user costs reflect the price of carbon. They also have the power to set taxes on gasoline and other transportation fuels, as well as to regulate the price for natural gas, petroleum and other fuels sold directly to commercial, industrial, or residential customers.

The main challenge facing states who undertake their own aggressive climate action is leakage. If energy prices rise high enough, energy-intensive businesses can chose to relocate to states with less restrictive climate policies. However, with the exception of a few very energy-intensive businesses, such as steel production, energy costs generally represent a fairly small part of total business costs.

Inside Climate News:

For a time this spring in California, as the snow melted above hydroelectric dams, the sun shone on solar arrays, and the wind whipped through turbines, the state was confronted with both a blessing and a curse.

It arrived as an overwhelming flood of cheap, clean electricity. At times it drove wholesale prices below zero. And it has left grid operators in California, and in other parts of the country, wondering how to cope with the upending of power markets by abundant renewable energy.

California has led the pack in adding renewable energy to its grid. How it manages the challenges of energy over-abundance may determine whether other states follow in its clean energy footsteps.

Some worry that if California bungles the transition to clean energy, it could undermine the state’s own incredibly rapid solar build-out—from 300 megawatts on the grid in 2008 to nearly 15,000 megawatts today—which has put California well ahead of its milestones toward deep decarbonization.

The crux of the issue that arose this spring is that in the middle of some days, California produced so much renewable energy it drove wholesale electricity prices below zero—what’s known as negative pricing. In March through May this year, wholesale energy prices in California went negativeon 21 different days, according to an analysis of the power markets by Catherine Wolfram, co-director of the Haas Energy Institute at the University of California, Berkeley.

Although an abundance of hydropower from large snows has made negative prices more common this year, California has been trending this way for years because of solar’s penetration. In fact, the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), which manages the electric flow across 80 percent of the state, predicts that if the build-out of solar continues at this pace, by 2024, California will have an overabundance of energy midday nearly every day.

Inside Climate News:

Emissions from the nation’s power generators have been on the decline, even as the economy has grown—providing evidence that contradicts pro-coal arguments promoted by the Trump administration.

A report released Wednesday by the consulting firm M.J. Bradley & Associates finds that climate-warming carbon dioxide emissions from the country’s power generators declined between 2005 and 2015 as the companies shifted away from coal and toward renewable energy sources and natural gas. Preliminary data from 2016 suggests that emissions dropped further last year, putting them at or near the same level they were in 1990. Meanwhile, the report notes, gross domestic product (GDP) has grown steadily over the same period.

“The decoupling of economic growth from emissions growth is really encouraging,” said Dan Bakal, director of electric power for Boston-based sustainability advocacy group, Ceres, which sponsored the study. “You can achieve these reductions while growing the economy, and trying to reverse these trends would be an uphill battle.”


One Response to “Off the Trump Train: Cities, States, can Meet Paris Goals without US Help”

  1. J4Zonian Says:

    The “problem” of too much energy is not a problem with renewables, it’s just one more indication that profit-driven motives are sick and twisted unconsciously destructive desires and should be gotten rid of so society can survive. Public utilities with the object of providing clean power in a healthy environment, and an equal, democratic society are a big part of the answer; without restructuring our energy system to remove those motives it seems unlikely we’ll make it through this crisis.

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