A version of this article was originally posted on the Huffington Post.
As President Donald Trump retreats from climate action, Gov. Jerry Brown and Michael Bloomberg have expressed the frustration that many of us feel. But the former mayor of New York and the current governor of California also saw an opportunity. Has Trump created a watershed moment for climate action? He has certainly motivated a loud response.
State, city and business leaders are now more eager than ever to win a clean energy future. Over 2,000 American cities, states and businesses have announced they will pick up the slack to ensure the U.S. drives down its emissions. They know that if they don’t keep up, they risk being left behind, whether or not the federal government plays a role.
It is why the former mayor of the most populous and economically powerful U.S. city has teamed up with the governor of the most populous and economically powerful U.S. state. Today, Brown and Bloomberg are announcing a new initiative, America’s Pledge on climate change, which will compile and quantify the actions states, cities and businesses in the United States are taking to reduce their emissions in line with the Paris Agreement. This will work with the We Are Still In coalition and other efforts to mobilize U.S. climate action. World Resources Institute, along with the Rocky Mountain Institute, will help quantify and communicate the emissions reductions of U.S. states, cities and businesses as they help fill the void left by the federal government.
Here are some of the ways cities, states and businesses are embracing this challenge:
Cities: The Power and Incentive to Lead
Home to about 60 percent of Americans and the majority of the country’s GDP, U.S. cities have a record of showing the federal government what needs to be done, including teaming up to combat climate change and showing that measures like energy efficiency standards and low-carbon transit make economic sense, because they more than pay for themselves.
Cities have already started working to uphold America’s climate pledge. At least 320 American mayors have already committed to adopt, honor and uphold the Paris Agreement goals and 134 cities actively manage climate risks and measure their impact as part of the Compact of Mayors. At least 133 of them have joined the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy dedicated to reducing emissions and strengthening climate resilience.
States: Creating Jobs and Growing the Economy
State governments understand that clean energy and energy efficiency create local, good-paying jobs that can’t be outsourced because they’re in industries like electrical work and installation. For example, Texas, one of the most fossil-fuel-friendly states, currently has the most wind energy jobs of any state in the country, and that growth is not slowing down.
States and the utility companies they often regulate can save money by reducing energy waste. Energy efficiency measures are the least expensive way for states to meet their energy needs, commonly returning more than $2 or $3 in energy supply spending for every $1 invested.
States have also stepped up to lead. Twelve states and Puerto Rico formed the bipartisan U.S. Climate Alliance, representing about one-third of the U.S. population and GDP. At least 17 governors released individual statements standing by Paris.
Businesses: Doubling Down on Climate Commitments
More than 1,000 businesses signed on to the We Are Still In” statement in support of the Paris Agreement. And the businesses working to do this aren’t just the small ones, and they aren’t just giving it lip service.
Some of America’s biggest brands – including Coca Cola, General Mills, Hewlett Packard, Kellogg Company, Pepsi, Phillip Morris, Proctor & Gamble, Pfizer, Wal-Mart Stores and Xerox are among 43 U.S. companies that have already created (or are in the process of creating) targets for reducing emissions in-line with what the science says is needed to address climate change as part of the Science Based Targets initiative.
They’re doing this not only because it’s the right thing to do but also because it makes business sense. From mitigating the risk of massive droughts and floods disrupting their corporate assets, customers and the economy to saving on more efficient energy use and cheaper forms of reliable clean energy, companies know very well that acting on climate is a smart business decision. Initiatives like the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA) are helping to drive that action by simplifying renewable energy purchasing for businesses and utilities. If American businesses are to stay competitive and innovative, they will take to the market of the future: a clean, reliable and efficient one.
The United States can still win a clean energy future. But the clock is ticking. How long will it take? Will it be fast enough? And will the We Are Still In coalition, galvanized by the leadership of Bloomberg and Brown, be enough to offset federal inaction? WRI looks forward to working with these leaders, along with the Rocky Mountain Institute and others to understand how much ground states, cities and businesses can make up. One thing we know: these leaders understand the stakes. They are taking action. And there is no time to lose.