U.S. Cities, States and Businesses Pledge to Measure Emissions

Source: By HIROKO TABUCHI and LISA FRIEDMAN, New York Times • Posted: Thursday, July 13, 2017

Michael R. Bloomberg, former mayor of New York, in June in Paris. A coalition is moving to uphold the United States’ commitments under the Paris deal. Christophe Petit Tesson/European Pressphoto Agency

A coalition of American states, cities and businesses that have pledged to stick with the Paris climate pact will team up with experts to quantify their climate commitments and share their plans with the United Nations, vowing to act in spite of the Trump administration’s exit from the accord.

President Trump said last month that the United States would withdraw from the Paris deal, isolating the United States on the world stage. At a Group of 20 summit meeting last week, world leaders agreed to move forward collectively on climate change without the United States, declaring the landmark 2015 pact “irreversible.”

But the coalition, called America’s Pledge — which now includes 227 cities and counties, nine states and about 1,650 businesses and investors — is moving to uphold the United States’ commitments under the Paris deal. The country had committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent by 2025, compared with 2005 levels.

The group, led by Gov. Jerry Brown of California and Michael R. Bloomberg, a former New York mayor, plans to work with outside experts to measure the effects of their pledges, and to announce an early tally at a United Nations climate conference this year. The coalition is set to outline the new steps on Wednesday.

“The American government may have pulled out of the Paris Agreement, but American society remains committed to it — and we will redouble our efforts to achieve its goals,” Mr. Bloomberg, a United Nations special envoy for cities and climate change, said in a draft statement.

“We’re sending a clear message to the world that America’s states, cities and businesses are moving forward with our country’s commitments under the Paris Agreement — with or without Washington,” Mr. Brown said.

The study will measure the effect, by 2025, of new climate action by cities, states, businesses and universities that have signed up to the effort, organizers said. It will also include the effects of climate-friendly policies that are already in effect at local levels, whether or not they are part of the coalition.

The analysis, led by the think tanks World Resources Institute and Rocky Mountain Institute, will compare that effect with business-as-usual scenarios, as well as the Obama-era Paris commitment.

In a statement, Kelly Love, a White House spokeswoman, said the Trump administration “believes in cooperative federalism and therefore are supportive of states and cities making their own choices within their respective borders on climate change policy.”

Still, it remains unclear whether — absent federal policy — a group of states, cities and businesses can hope to drive down domestic emissions to levels anywhere near the country’s previous Paris goals.

The effort lacks participation from states like Texas, for example, which accounts for a fifth of United States energy production. Vehicle emissions standards are set in Washington, even though reining in auto emissions would be critical to reducing the country’s carbon footprint. (California’s authority to set its own car emissions rules does give that state some sway over automakers.)

There is also no formal mechanism for entities that were not countries to be full state parties to the Paris accord.

Then there is the issue of getting an accurate measure of the various commitments.

“If a business is in a city or state, and they’ve all made climate pledges, do you count them all?” said Elizabeth Sawin, a director of Climate Interactive, a nonprofit research organization. “Adding all this up will be a very challenging task.”

Paul Bodnar, a managing director at the Rocky Mountain Institute, said the analysis would tackle that problem of double-counting. He said the exercise was aimed at providing a better picture for the international community of what efforts continued at the local level to reduce emissions.

The study would show that “the U.S. is not suddenly a black hole for climate action, just because the Trump administration withdrew from the Paris commitment,” he said.