North American states and provinces are walking the talk in climate leadership

Denise Puca
16 September 2016

NEW YORK: On Wednesday, September 21, leaders from thirteen states, regions and provinces from across the world will meet in New York City for a key States & Regions Alliance meeting, to explore ways of enhancing intergovernmental collaboration on energy efficiency and climate action.

Building on the success of previous years, Climate Week NYC will feature a series of thematic days, driving in-depth conversations covering the crucial areas in the climate change agenda to support the global low carbon transition.

On September 21, the focus will be on the actions that sub-national governments from across the Americas and the world are taking to combat climate change and build more resilient communities. The Climate Group will convene a meeting of the States & Regions Alliance, which will explore the emerging opportunities for the members of the Alliance and the Under 2 Coalition, followed by a related workshop on energy efficiency.

The workshop will bring together senior representatives from state and regional governments to explore ways to increase international cooperation on energy efficiency at the subnational level. It will focus on where states and regions in different parts of the world have the "power to act" on energy efficiency, as well as opportunities for cooperation between sub-national governments with similar powers.

Sub-national governments will have an increasingly important role to play in the next 5-10 years. Their policies and investments will help national governments implement their climate plans and deliver on the goals set out in their National Determined Contributions (NDCs).

And with the world’s eyes focused on where the United States and Canada are heading on environmental leadership, it is crucial for North American states and provinces to keep demonstrating the multiple economic and environmental benefits resulting from their climate plans.


A long-standing leader on climate action in the United States, the State of Washington has a state mandate to cut its emissions 25% by 2035 and 50% by 2050 from 1990 levels.

Washington is holding a public ballot in November to become the first state in the country to set a carbon tax, starting at a price of US$25 per tonne and set to increase regularly over time to incentivize the deployment of clean energy and technology.

“Washington’s forests grow the world’s tallest trees and our coastlines support the nation’s biggest farmed shellfish industry, but they are now at risk. Our state has seen record wildfires and  our oyster growers are now struggling with acidifying marine waters. The families and livelihoods that depend on a healthy Washington can’t wait for federal action,” said Washington’s Governor Jay Inslee.

“That’s why we, with our west coast partners – British Columbia, Oregon and California – are moving ahead working together to cut emissions and seize the benefits of the clean energy revolution. We know this is possible as we have already been successful at growing jobs and attracting businesses while reducing carbon pollution.”

Among its key climate policies, the state is supporting renewable energy with a mandate for electric utilities to source 15% of electricity from renewables by 2020. Furthermore, last year Washington pledged an additional US$40 billion to the Clean Energy Fund, continuing on the success of the first phase of the programme.


Vermont already had bold plans in place for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions before the adoption of the Paris Agreement, and was one of the first signatories of the Under2 MoU.  The American state aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% below 1990 levels by 2030 and 80% to 95% by 2050.

As a state which is already suffering from the effects of climate change - with a recent increase in devastating floods that have cost millions of dollars in disaster recovery - working with businesses and citizens to deliver on its climate policies is a priority.  

“Public and private sector leaders in Vermont know that transitioning to a clean energy, low carbon economy will make our state an even better place to live,” said Vermont’s Secretary of Natural Resources Deb Markowitz.  

“We have seen phenomenal job growth in energy sector jobs already, and more and more Vermonters are buying electric vehicles that will reduce air pollution and send fewer dollars out of state to pay for imported gasoline.”

As a key piece of its climate plan, Vermont is planning to source 90% of its energy needs – from electricity to heating and transportation – with renewable sources by 2050. It currently gets just under 20% from renewable sources like solar, wind and biomass, and that percentage is expected to rise significantly as the state implements new requirements for utilities to increase renewables in their energy mix as well as other policies.


Canada’s most populous province has been witnessing the dangerous consequences of a changing climate through severe weather events, which have been threatening its communities, natural capital and economy.

With an interim target of cutting its carbon emissions by 15% by 2020, and a long-term target of an 80% reduction by 2050 from 1990 levels, Ontario has developed a clear set of climate policies and initiatives within the province and at an international level.

“Ontario’s five year Climate Change Action Plan outlines the actions to be taken that will provide households and businesses with the tools they need to accelerate the use of low-carbon technologies,” said Ontario’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change Glen Murray.

Two weeks ago the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Québec signed a joint agreement with Mexico, striking a crucial collaboration on carbon markets. The deal, signed at the II Climate Summit of the Americas, will see the three regions working together to link their cap-and-trade systems. This spirit of collaboration amongst Pan-American subnational governments is a clear example of the climate leadership that the Americas are showing.

“We are embracing our opportunity to lead a climate change movement that will transform our province and country ― and ensure a healthy, prosperous and greener future for all,” added Minister Murray.

Ontario intends to partner with Québec and California, in what will be North America’s largest carbon credit trading market. This partnership represents a historic landmark in the fight against climate change and real economic opportunity for our province to grab a hold of. By linking our cap and trade markets, Ontario will be able to significantly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions in the most efficient and cost effective manner possible.”

Find out more about the work that the States & Regions Alliance is doing at our event during Climate Week NYC on September 21 #CWNYC #StatesAndRegions.

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