US states, cities, and businesses will continue to lead on climate action

Reading time: 5 minutes
20 January 2017

The Presidential inauguration of Donald Trump takes place in Washington D.C. today with concerns over the new Administration’s commitment to the Paris Agreement and climate action. In this blog, Amy Davidsen, Executive Director North America, The Climate Group, looks at the key role of sub-national governments and businesses in driving the clean energy transition.

As he takes the Oath of Office today, officially becoming the 45th US President, Donald Trump has already promised to undo his predecessor’s most important steps to combat climate change; from “rescinding the Climate Action Plan” to “cancelling the Paris Agreement.” Whether he will follow through on these promises is yet to be seen. 

But while the President may get the first word in this new phase of the US response to climate change, states, cities, and businesses will also have a say - deciding whether to follow the President’s path, or continue on their own towards clean energy economies through bold climate action. 

There are reasons to be optimistic. 

To date, hundreds of US states, cities, and businesses have made strong climate commitments. At least 75 of them have gone as far as committing to reduce their emissions by 80%, or to secure 100% of their electricity from renewable sources. Many more have committed to reduction targets in line with climate science

Their response since the election has been unambiguous. They are not changing course. In the past few months, several US states, over 65 US cities, and more than 365 US businesses have all publicly reaffirmed their commitment to reducing emissions, as well as continued support for the Paris Agreement.  

As clean energy continues to get cheaper, energy efficiency continues to get easier, and even more Americans become concerned about the issue, we can expect their ranks to grow. It’s the business case, not politics, which drives most climate action at the local level. And as that case improves, action will increase, regardless of who sits in the Oval Office. 

We have seen this in our own initiatives, such as RE100, which began with less than a dozen companies and has since grown to 87 companies, about a third of which are based in the US. 

Will it be enough for the US to meet its climate commitments? That is the big question.

And while we don’t yet know the answer, we do know is this: 

States, cities and businesses have been leading the way on climate change from the very beginning, and they will continue to lead the way in the coming years - providing national policymakers with proof that strong climate action and economic growth go hand in hand. 

If the highest office in America decides to ignore climate change, look below. There is a lot happening. It is there today. It will be there in four years. 

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