WRI established its U.S. office in 1982. We work to improve water quality, increase awareness of local climate change impacts, and identify cost-effective emissions-reduction opportunities in the United States. Learn more about our work in the United States.
The Obama Administration committed in 2009 to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. While the Administration is not currently on track to meet this goal, it can pursue a suite of policies even without new legislation.
WRI analysis finds that Ohio can reduce its CO2 emissions 27 percent below 2011 levels by 2020 using existing state policies and infrastructure opportunities. These reductions would meet or exceed potentially stringent federal standards by the EPA for existing power plants.
In early 2007, the politics of climate change experienced a tectonic shift when the CEOs of ten major corporations and four national environmental groups – including WRI – joined together in calling on the U.S. government to quickly enact strong national legislation requiring significant reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP) and its bold proposals have advanced the policy debate in Congress. As USCAP membership grows (now at thirty one participating organizations representing over 2 million people in membership and over $2 trillion in market capitalization) so does the number of climate bills introduced. WRI was instrumental in the formation of USCAP, which is the result of a ten-year effort to engage the private sector in the design of business strategies and market-based policies to achieve strong national GHG reduction goals.
The first step in addressing the challenge of climate change is to define a consistent way to measure its causes. In April 2007, thirty-four U.S. states formed the Climate Registry to measure, track, verify, and publicly report GHG emissions accurately, transparently, and consistently across borders and industry sectors. The Registry will support voluntary, market-based, and regulatory GHG emissions reporting programs. The states joining represent 78% of the U.S. population, with impressive geographic, economic, and political diversity. WRI played a pivotal role in helping to convene this initiative and by providing technical consulting. Ideally, these standards and strategies will help support and provide a common template for federal climate change policies and programs.
One of America’s great natural resources, the 64,000 square mile Chesapeake Bay, is in a state of decline largely as a result of nutrient pollution from farms and wastewater treatment plants. Too many nutrients in the water can lead to explosive algae growth which in turn blocks out sunlight and absorbs oxygen. Aquatic life dies out. More than 400 coastal waterways worldwide suffer from adverse effects of nutrient over-enrichment, also known as eutrophication.
Three states with an impact on the Chesapeake Bay – West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Maryland – have been working with WRI to set up and launch a state-based regional nutrient trading market. Farmers can now go online and sell the nitrogen and phosphorous reduction credits they earn from better conservation practices to municipalities and companies that must meet mandated water pollution reduction requirements. It’s similar to the cap-and-trade approach that has reduced acid rain.
The establishment of a robust water quality trading market in the Chesapeake region will not only help reduce hard to manage nutrient pollution, but it will serve as an example for other multi-state watersheds, such as the Mississippi River Basin, as they seek cost-effective solutions for addressing eutrophication.
Germany’s energy transition (or “Energiewende”) is the most ambitious current effort to put a large industrial economy onto a sustainable energy path, recognizing the 21st century reality of a climate-constrained world. If the world’s fourth largest economy demonstrates that this shift is possible without undermining economic growth, it could be a major factor in enabling a global energy transition. And with climate change intensifying – 2012 was the 36th straight year of above-average global temperature, and 2011 and 2012 each produced more extreme weather events costing over one billion dollars each than any other year in recorded history – reducing greenhouse gas emissions is imperative for any future energy system. Thus, the Energiewende is critical to the ongoing fight against global warming.
When President Barack Obama announced the country’s first national climate strategy, many people wondered what it would mean across the nation. Yet, the strategy may carry even more significant implications overseas.
The plan restricts U.S. government funding for most international coal projects. This policy could significantly affect energy producers and public and private investors around the globe.
As impacts from climate change become more visible and costly, leaders across the nation are responding. In the wake of projections from the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science showing that Maryland could face sea-level rise of more than six feet by the end of the century, Governor Martin O’Malley unveiled a state climate action plan this week. The initiative will reduce greenhouse gas emissions while also supporting job creation and economic growth.