In Spite Of Local Government Pledges, We Are Still Not Meeting Previous Emissions Goals

Recently, local governments around the United States have made serious legislative strides in an attempt to reduce carbon emissions and rely less heavily on non-renewable energy sources. In the past few weeks, California and Orlando, Florida, have enacted legislation to reduce reliance on fossil fuels for energy.

California approved a measure to require energy sources that power the state to come from renewable sources by 2045. The Assembly of the State of California voted 43-32 in favor of legislation to eliminate reliance on fossil fuels for energy.

California has been a prominent leader in the battle against climate change. A little while back, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power suggested attaching a $3 billion pipeline and a pump station powered by solar and wind energy to the Hoover Dam in an effort to curb carbon emissions.

An engineer from the Orlando Utilities Commission examining data at a solar test site. Credit: Edward Linsmier for The New York Times

Orlando, Florida, has set a goal to have all energy sources be carbon-free by 2050. The city, which has already placed solar panels on nearly 18,000 of its 25,000 streetlights, is hoping to equip 8 percent of its city-owned utility with solar panels by 2020.

These legislative changes by city and state governments are the latest moves in a long-term response to President Donald Trump’s June 2017 announcement that the United States would be withdrawing from The Paris Agreement.

This announcement prompted a number of U.S. mayors to sign their own pact that vowed their cities would continue to follow the rules the Paris Agreement put in place. Local governments were leading the way to a more environmentally-friendly future even before President Trump declared the withdrawal.

During his announcement, President Trump defended his decision to leave the Paris Agreement by saying that he was “elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.”

Despite the enormous number of pledges by local governments to commit to the Paris agreement, many critics worry that it still isn’t enough to put us on the right track. In one study, greenhouse gas mitigation pledges in nearly 6,000 cities, states, and regions around the globe found that only about 1.5 billion to 2.2 billion tons of greenhouse gas would be reduced, barely impacting the roughly 30 billion tons of total CO2 emissions released annually.

In the United States, however, the impact of mitigation pledges was estimated to reduce emissions half way to what would be needed to meet the US target emissions that were listed in the Paris Agreement. Although this is remarkable, it still doesn’t stop the United States from crossing the threshold for dangerous warming.

Only time will tell if the efforts made by local governments to decelerate climate change worked as intended.