Is the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement a conservative act?

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“We’re definitely, completely, undoubtedly leaving the accord.” With these words, President Trump announced his intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. This decision did not come as a surprise, although it disappointed many around the globe. Now the question is, will it impede global progress toward limiting the rise in temperatures?

Michael Oppenheimer, Princeton climate scientist and co-editor of the Journal of Climactic Change thinks it could, saying “if we lag, the noose tightens” — despite the US Energy Information Administration (EIA)’s estimate that the US is forty years ahead of forecasts in renewable energy growth.

Surprisingly, the same conservative Republican Party principles that led the US to withdraw from the Paris Agreement are also preventing lag. A strong military, free market and support for business, and a limited federal government that favors more state-based regulations are peppered throughout the 2016 Republican Party platform. Here is how these segments react to climate change. First, the military’s response to climate change: as a part of its readiness program, the Department of Defense (DoD) prepared a Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap, where it states “among the future trends that will impact our national security is climate change.” This document then describes adaptation strategies that are reminiscent of the ones required by the Paris Agreement Article 7.

The business community — specifically big business — urged the president to keep the US in the Paris Agreement. The CEOs of Exxon Mobil, BP, and Chevron took out an ad in a major U.S. newspaper to declare, “by expanding markets for innovative clean technologies, the agreement generates jobs and economic growth.”

Finally, in the face of President Trump’s decision, state governments have jumped in to mitigate GHG emissions and spur climate change adaptation. The United States Climate Alliance is a consortium of 14 states and Puerto Rico that represents 36% of the US population, $7 trillion of the national GDP, and 1.7 million jobs in green energy. The Alliance has affirmed its commitment to achieve the US’s Paris Agreement pledge. Along with a 14% increase in economic growth, it has already achieved a 15% reduction in GHGs as compared to 2005 levels. It is on track to meet the Paris Agreement goal of 26-28% reduction in GHG emissions by 2025 as compared to 2005.

Nonetheless, we should continue to be disappointed by the announced withdrawal (and thankful for the slow withdrawal procedure detailed in Article 28). The US withdrawal is based on a dangerous idea. This idea depicts climate change policy as a choice between environmental conservation and economic growth or between jobs and regulation. Framing climate change in these terms allows people to think that the issue is a matter of trade-offs. It leads to thinking that, at some point, providing jobs is most important so the environment must take a back seat. However, in reality, climate change is an existential threat and needs to be dealt with.

Subnationals to the rescue – again

Sea Level Rise 6 metersIt would be unconscionable for these issues of grave concern for the people of Florida to not be addressed in the upcoming debate.”

So wrote more than 20 Republican and Democratic mayors in Florida in a letter to moderators of this week’s presidential debates about the need to address climate change.  This group of mayors represents coastal cities located from Miami to Tampa that are particularly concerned about sea level rise.  The mayors ended their letter by providing three questions on climate and sea level rise for candidates from both parties, who will meet in Miami on March 9th and 10th for the primary debates.  Primary voting will take place on Tuesday, March 15.

Have these states been HAC’d?

governors accordIn the final days of COP21, the High Ambition Coalition (HAC) urged all Parties to join in the effort to keep global warming below 1.5C.  Started as an initiative of the Climate Vulnerable Forum, in its final hours HAC’s members included the US, EU, and Brazil along with the Marshall Islands and Kiribati.  It was THE in group in Paris on December 12.

This week, in response to the US Supreme Court stay of the Clean Power Plan (CPP), 17 state governors announced the Governors’ Accord for a New Energy Future.  In it, they “recognize that now is the time to embrace a bold vision of the nation’s energy future. And to do so, states are once again poised to lead. We join together, despite unique opportunities and challenges in each state, to embrace a shared vision of this future.”  Interestingly, this group embraces many of the CPP’s components for achieving emissions reductions, including renewable energy, energy efficiency, and integrating solar and wind generation into electricity grids.  

The Accord is bipartisan, including both California and New York and Michigan and Iowa.  The signing states represent around 40% of the US population. California Governor Jerry Brown (D) framed it as “governors from both parties have joined together and committed themselves to a clean energy future. Our goal is to clean up the air and protect our natural resources.”  Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval (R) said that it “provides a platform for Nevada to leverage new partnerships, gain and share knowledge and an opportunity to introduce our energy advancements to other states . . . that will allow Nevada to continue to lead the nation in renewable energy production, energy conservation, and the exportation of energy.”

High ambition indeed.



California Leads Subnationals in Setting a High Bar for COP21 Negotiators

Mary Nichols, Chair of the CA Air Resources Board presents to UCLA & Vermont Law Students (Photo courtesy of Tracy Bach)

Mary Nichols, Chair of the CA Air Resources Board presents to UCLA & Vermont Law Students (Photo courtesy of Tracy Bach)

The VLS delegation had the privilege yesterday to attend an intimate presentation given by Mary Nichols, Chair of the California Air Resources Board, and Ken Alex, the Director of the Governor Jerry Brown’s Office of Planning and Research. Mary and Ken candidly addressed a group of professional students and professors from UCLA and Vermont Law School while a documentary crew followed Mary’s every move and captured the group’s reaction.

These representatives of the California state government offer a surprisingly powerful presence at COP21. The commitments and strategies of subnational groups have been a major topic of conversation this week since these groups, including U.S. states, represent key stakeholders in the movement to address climate change. According to some sources, “in order to keep global temperatures from rising 2˚C by 2050, the world needs to cut 8 to 10 gigatonnes of carbon emissions by 2020.” Our mitigation goal will be even higher if the negotiators ultimately agree on maintaining temperature rise at or below 1.5˚C. Yet, the U.N. Environmental Program reports that agreements between subnational governments to reduce emissions could prevent 3 gigatonnes of carbon from entering the atmosphere by 2020. Cooperation and ambition amongst subnationals is therefore crucial to reaching our COP21 goals.

Governor Brown speaks for subnationals (From: the Office of Governor Brown)

Governor Brown speaks for subnationals (From: the Office of Governor Brown)

California is a particularly important piece of the puzzle. According to Ken Alex, the state represents 1.3% of global emissions and has a larger economy than 188 of the 195 countries that have ratified the UNFCCC. The state therefore has a large role to play, and so far, it has exceeded expectations. California is leading a group of more than 123 subnational jurisdictions (including Vermont), which represent $9.9 trillion in GDP and 720 million people, in pursuing more ambitious goals than those identified in the anticipated Paris Outcome. This group of signatories to the Under 2 MOU is aiming to reduce emissions 80 to 95% below 1990 levels by 2050, or to achieve a two tons per capita CO2 emissions limit.

Under Governor Brown and Mary Nichols’ leadership, California is making progress toward addressing these goals. The California cap and trade scheme is gaining traction, partnering with Quebec and, hopefully soon, with other states. The state is also the only one in the country allowed to implement its own, more rigorous, mobile air emissions standards. These standards have subsequently been adopted in other international cities, including in Beijing.

From: LA Times & Christophe Petit Tesson (EPA)

Governor Brown and former Governor Schwarzenegger meet to discuss climate change. (From: LA Times & Christophe Petit Tesson / EPA)

To promote California’s progress and inspire other global leaders, several California representatives have presented at COP21 over the last several days. Governor Jerry Brown welcomed new signatories to the Under 2 MOU in the German Pavilion at Le Bourget. Arnold Schwarzenegger spoke on behalf of Austria at the beginning of the week, and later conducted meetings with the current governor of California. Other state representatives, like Mary Nichols, are also participating in discussions throughout the event, including in a session dedicated entirely to California at the U.S. Pavilion.

We will continue to track the inspiring action of subnationals throughout the event, particularly those of U.S. states like California and Vermont.

Subnational leaders leading the way

logo_tagline1Under 2 MoU”  – no it’s not Prince’s latest song, it is the initiative of subnational leaders (Mayors and Governors)  committing to limit emissions below 2 metric tons per capita by 2050 which is the amount of reductions needed to limit global warming to less than 2°C. This initiative, supercharged by the leadership of Governor Jerry Brown of California, has grown to include 65 jurisdictions from 20 countries spanning 5 continents. The commitments collectively represent “more than $17.9 trillion in GDP and 588 million people. If the signatories represented a single country, it would be the largest economy in the world by GDP, surpassing the United States.” These subnational efforts can have a real and positive effect to galvanize action at COP 21. They hope to influence other leaders and national governments to follow their lead. Governor Inslee of Washington State proudly declared at the Conference: “Let me say that we rebel against the term ‘subnationals’, we think we are supernationals… we are leading the charge with super work here.”

And that work will need to continue after Paris. These subnational leaders are the ones implementing the many of the efforts to be undertaken in the Agreement. Subnational reductions represent 50% of the potential emission mitigation. These leaders are the ones in charge of directing transformative change in our daily lives in the sectors of transportation, air quality, land use, and building codes.

It was no coincidence that the panelists at the COP 21 press briefing were from the North American Pacific Coast. As Governor Inslee noted: “The West coast lives on innovation – it’s our stock and trade”. He, along with Governor Brown, Mayor Schaaf of Oakland, CA, Mayor Robertson of Vancouver and Mayor Pollak of Montreal, emphasized that Developed Country Parties must act on climate change now or it will cost trillions to fix it in the future. The world needs to stretch to reach the climate goal and local governments can push and provide example for 100% renewables and innovative ways to decrease emissions as a whole. A creative economy will find these solutions.

Green Jobs Now

While some jobs in the “old” economy will be lost, there are new opportunities in the green economy to benefit global health. A green economy creates jobs. The proof lies in the example from British Columbia which put a tax on carbon in 2008. Carbon-intensive industries were able to take a staged approach and given relief as they proceeded to become green. The benefits have been seen over multiple years with emissions reductions and an increase in the economy despite the global financial crisis. The tax is revenue-neutral; it is returned in the form of tax reduction. Therefore, this is an economic stimulus! The transition to clean energy has stimulated the economy of Oakland where the Rising Sun Energy Center is training people coming out of prison and high school graduates to do energy audits and provide skills in installing solar panels and other construction work associated with green energy.

However, it is not only the developed global north who are implementing these initiatives. The second group of panelists was composed of leaders from forest-rich developing countries. The panel included; Governor Ayada of Cross River State, Nigeria; Governor Gambini of Ucayali, Peru; Governor Sandoval-Diaz of Jalisco, Mexico; and Governor Melo de Oliveira of Amazonas, Brazil. These countries must find finds ways to promote green jobs to supply their poor citizens with sustainable development and be provided with sufficient support to preserve their resources. They need to find the balance between providing a livelihood to their people and preserving the wealth of their forests. Creatively, Nigeria has seen growth in green economy. They have provided jobs for their youth as the “green police” who discourage the cutting trees and plant new ones to absorb CO2. Not only is this a means of conservation, it also combats desertification. Peru has been able to reclaim approximately 1 million hectares of degraded areas for re-forestation. Amazonas, home to millions of acres of the “lungs of the world”, is also home to both acai and camu-camu  fruits which are used commercially. Investment in Amazonas’ biodiversity makes it ripe for new sustainable development.lungs

Sustainability is key; developed countries must recognize that their forests represent the wealth of these developing areas. Engagement in a critical dialogue with regard to aid is necessary to ensure the health of the land and all the peoples of the world. As these panelists demonstrate, innovative efforts at the subnational level can lead the world to a transformative economy that keeps the environment safe.



New Government in Canada, New Direction on Climate Change

Canadian FlagA new day for climate policy is dawning in Canada.

Canada will be coming to the Paris negotiations with a new position on climate change thanks to a stunning electoral result in last night’s federal election. Out is the Conservative Party which held power for the past decade, in is the Liberal Party.

In the past decade, Canada has become a climate pariah. Its climate policy stagnated and even reversed itself when Canada became the only country to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol. At COP19, Canada’s federal government was awarded the “Lifetime Unachievement” Fossil award for its persistent blocking and stalling of negotiations, and its long-standing failure to make meaningful contributions to reduce its emissions.  Canada’s per capita emissions and total emissions now rank amongst the highest in the world.

The newly elected Liberal Party has a clear position on addressing climate change. “We’ll meet the provinces within 90 days of the UN Climate Change Conference this December to develop a carbon pricing policy.” This is a stark contrast to the Conservative Party position which portrayed carbon tax and cap-and-trade proposals as job-killers, economic suicide, and the wrong thing for Canada.

The Liberal Party wants the provinces to lead in the development of a carbon tax and the federal government to serve in a coordinating role. Canada has one province (British Columbia) with a carbon tax, two provinces (Quebec and Ontario) participating in the California cap-and-trade program, and the biggest emitter province (Alberta) is increasing its emissions intensity targets and doubling its carbon levy in 2017. With provinces promoting different plans, the new federal government has its work cut out to build a cohesive national strategy to address GHG emissions.

Canada is viewed as a beacon in the world of international relations but it has failed miserably at home and at the UNFCCC to address GHG emissions. How quickly the Canadian government will act remains to be seen but last night’s election charts a new direction to Paris and beyond.

Will You Under 2 MOU?

The subnationals are firmly in the game.  At COP19 in Warsaw, they had their orange pinnies on while stretching and sprinting on the sidelines, showing the ADP coaches that they were ready.  “Bring in the subs” was my favorite 2014 blog headline.

CuomoYesterday New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo decided that California’s Jerry Brown shouldn’t get all the playing time. Cuomo signed the Under 2 MOU, committing his state to take actions to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius. Under 2 MOU “brings together states and regions willing to commit to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions and will galvanize action at the Conference of the Parties (COP 21) in Paris this December.” Thus far, forty-three other subnational governments have signed this MoU, ranging from Canadian provinces British Columbia and Ontario to cities like Los Angeles and Nampula, Mozambique, and regional governments in Spain’s Basque Country and Nepal’s Kathmandu Valley.

What will the Empire State do after the ink dries?  Governor Cuomo announced several specific actions, some new and some that build on those already in play.  One new plan is to expand the Northeast’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and link it with the Western Climate Initiative, creating a North American carbon market. Another new initiative is requiring the State University of New York (SUNY), the largest statewide public university system in the U.S., to install renewable energy in its 64 campuses by 2020. SUNY currently has 20% energy efficiency improvement and 30% GHG reduction goals for 2020.  Governor Cuomo challenged private colleges and universities to match SUNY.  Finally, in the category of adding new to old, a commitment to bring solar energy to 150,000 more homes and businesses by 2020 builds on the $1 billion of public funds invested inNY Rev New York’s solar industry in 2013 via NY SUN Initiative and the additional $270 million and solar installations in 30,000 homes and businesses since then. A new twist in this 2015 announcement is the Shared Renewables program, which allows commercial projects to share power generated on their properties with surrounding community members.

Earlier this year, as part of the 2015 State Energy Plan, New York pledged to reduce GHG emissions 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2050 below 1990 levels. To do this, New York started Reforming the Energy Vision (REV), which we have blogged about.

At yesterday’s Under 2 MOU signing ceremony, Cuomo did not mince words about the need for subnational action on climate change. Failure to address the causes of climate change represents “gross negligence by government,” the Albany Times Union quotes him as saying, along with the public’s failure to hold their elected representatives responsible.  “In the case of climate change, denial is not a survival strategy.”

China’s cities surpass 2030 carbon peak promise

In the run up to COP21’s opening plenary on Monday, November 30, 2015, countries have been pledging their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). These public announcements submitted to the UNFCCC Secretariat describe how each Party will mitigate its GHG emissions, obama and chinaas well as implement adaptation strategies, help developing country Parties finance these kinds of actions, and participate in capacity building and technology transfer programs. Submitted INDCs number 35 as of today, which represents 63 Parties, given that the EU’s INDC covers the EU-28 or the 28 member states of that regional economic integration organization. China filed its INDC at the end of June, a detailed statement about the country’s past, present, and future climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies. Its overall objectives comport with the November 2014 joint announcement with the United States in which both countries described their individual mitigation targets and joint programming. Notably China pledge to peak its carbon emissions by 2030, if not sooner.

That’s why yesterday’s announcement at a joint US-China meeting that 11 Chinese cities and provinces will see their emissions drop sooner than the national target year caught my eye. Beijing and Guangzhou, two of China’s largest cities, committed to peak their carbon dioxide emissions by 2020, while Shenzhen pledged to do so by 2022. These three cities are part of the China’s Alliance of Peaking Pioneer Cities. This Alliance represents 25% of the country’s urban carbon emissions — the equivalent of Japan’s or Brazil’s national emissions. Wow!

The focus on the potential for cities and other subnational governments to implement mitigation and adaptation in a big way has been in the forefrontCHina air quality of the Paris negotiations on a new international climate change agreement. Nongovernmental organizations like C40 and ICLEI have built strong partnerships among the world’s largest cities. These partnerships have shared successful mitigation strategies, policies, and programs. This announcement yesterday by China’s major cities and provinces, and today’s anticipated joint declaration by municipal and regional leaders from both countries (including from more than a dozen U.S. states and cities) at a meeting on low-carbon cities in Los Angeles reinforces the message to UNFCCC State Parties: subnational governments have a major role to play in keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius.

And one more unexpected benefit of this city-centered work on climate change: it keeps the two largest GHG emitting countries focused on climate change, away from the distractions of other geopolitical tensions between them. Presidents Xi and Obama are expected to challenge each other on cybersecurity when the Chinese president comes to the United States next week. As a Reuters journalist observes, “Climate change is one area where the two countries largely see eye to eye, a fact the White House is happy to highlight.”

Cities tackle climate change adaptation

st kjeld beforeIncluding subnational governments like cities in the UNFCCC discussions has been on the front burner since COP19 in Warsaw.  While only sovereign countries may enter treaties, State Parties recognize that achieving Article 2’s goal of climate stabilization will take effort from other governmental jurisdictions, as well as civil society and private businesses.

And so this article about the first climate change-adapted neighorhood stood out.  Not only is the engineering and landscape design feat recently unveiled in St.Kjeld intriguing, it is striking that this neighborhood is in Copenhagen, Denmark, site of the 2009 COP15, which launched the idea of nationally determined contributions that now forms the backbone of negotiation for the new Paris Agreement at COP21.

“Climate change is a reality and we have to be prepared for floods, storms and rising sea levels,” says René Sommer Lindsay, the city official in charge of St. Kjeld’s transformation. “The [2011] cloudburst was really a wake-up call. We said, ‘Instead of doing pinpoint projects, let’s develop a rainwater master plan.’ Rainwater is only a problem if it goes where you don’t want it to go.”

City planners tore up neighborhood squares and replaced the asphalt with a hilly, grassy carpet interspersed with walking paths. When the next big storm hits, these mini-parks will become water basins, able to collect run-off water from surrounding buildings’ roofs as well. Streets with raised sidewalks will become “cloudburst boulevards,” serving as canals that channel rainwater away from the city to the harbor.  In the meantime, the new greenery cools the air as summer temperatures rise in northern Europe.  “Climate change is a huge opportunity to build greener cities,” Flemming Rafn Thomsen of Tredje Natur, the Danish architecture firm chosen for the project, explains. “We should stop pushing nature away and stop pretending that we can push the weather away. It’s a whole new paradigm.”

Noting that a city like Mumbai, which the World Bank ranks as the world’s fifth most exposed to floods, may not be able to afford Copenhagen’s climate-change adaptation strategies, this article points out how many cities actually can. Seven of the 10 most exposed cities, including New York and Tampa, Florida, are located in developed countries. New York, which has committed $20 billion to climate-change adaptation, is opting for floodwalls, while the Dutch delta city of Rotterdam has gone even further, designing a plan for floating neighborhoods. Several others are experimenting with mini-parks, which Morten Kabell, Copenhagen’s deputy mayor in charge of environment and technology, credits to people liking “blue and green, not gray. Countries talk,” he adds, “but cities know they have to act.”

California’s role in the US INDCs

Lima’s “Call for Climate Action,” as the COP20/CMP10 decisions have been termed, is one for the 196 UNFCCC state parties to heed when preparing their intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) before next December’s COP21. Given that only sovereign countries may be parties to treaties like the UNFCCC, and that most of them rely on a centralized government model of governance, COP discussions on climate policy typically occur between national capitols. Even with the expanded recognition of subnational governments that took root at COP19, this continues to be the case.

jerry brownClearly Governor Jerry Brown didn’t get this jurisdictional memo. Yesterday, in a speech to inaugurate his final term as California’s governor, he called for “a bold energy plan” (according to the NYT) that would reduce the state’s energy consumption beyond its already ambitious 2020 goals. Building on AB32, California’s landmark greenhouse gas emission statute enacted in 2006 when federal climate change regulation was at a low, Brown proposes three new state energy goals:

  1. sourcing 50% of California’s electricity from renewable sources by 2030;
  2. reducing gas consumption by cars and trucks by as much as 50% (via electric cars, thus reverting back to the importance of #1); and
  3. doubling new building energy efficiency.

To meet them, the Governor listed a number of specific strategies in his speech, including more distributed power, expanded rooftop solar, increased micro-grids, an “energy imbalance market,” improved battery storage, full integration of information technology and electrical distribution, and adding millions of electric and low-carbon vehicles.

As Governor Brown urged in his speech, “Taking significant amounts of carbon out of our economy without harming its vibrancy is exactly the sort of challenge at which California excels. This is exciting, it is bold and it is absolutely necessary if we are to have any chance of stopping potentially catastrophic changes to our climate system.” (On the catastrophic reference, see the NYT’s embedded video on drought in CA.)

Now that’s a call to action.  And one that will certainly help the Obama Administration make good on its proposed INDC pledges post COP19, recent announcement about joint China-US reductions, and use of national executive authority to achieve them — at a time when the incoming Republican Senate and House are challenging all of the above (despite a recent poll that found more than two-thirds of likely 2016 voters support the EPA’s power plant rule, including 87% of Democrats and 53% of Republicans).

Back story on PlaNYC

In my earlier post on the increasing role of subnationals at future COPs (and hence in the negotiations for a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol), I spotlighted Mayor Bloomberg’s climate change planning push via PlaNYC.

Here’s some more of the back story.

mta floodingA report by a research group led by Klaus Jacob of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory estimated that after a 100-year storm (e.g. Superstorm Sandy), it could take about three weeks to get the subway system back to 90% capacity. Taking into account all potential damage, the authors warned that “permanent restoration of the system to the full revenue service that was previously available could take more than two years.” The report estimated that the economic losses, due to the failure of infrastructure systems in the entire New York metropolitan region, could range from $48 billion to $68 billion. It offered suggestions for redesigning and shoring up vulnerable infrastructure in New York and concluded that for every one dollar spent today, four dollars in subsequent costs could be saved.

More fuel for my hunch that Mayor Bloomberg’s new consulting firm will not just play a benchwarmer role at the ADP’s meetings in 2014.

Bring in the subs

As Lindsay chronicled here and here, COP19 officially acknowledged the importance of climate change mitigation and adaptation activity at the subnational level.  Even though the UNFCCC is premised on negotiation between nations (state parties), all involved recognize the groundswell of climate change laws and projects at the city and regional levels, where the rubber literally meets the road.  The stats of C40, asubs coming in consortium of the 40 largest cities in the world, pack a punch:  8% of the world’s population, 5% of greenhouse gas emissions, and 21% of the global GDP.  No second string players here, and tremendous potential for actual change, if there really is no I in team.

Looking ahead to the legally binding agreement that will take the Kyoto Protocol’s place, the COP19 ADP decision and conclusions consciously include cities and other subnational governments to participate in upcoming ADP-sponsored technical meetings and forums to share mitigation and adaptation best practices culled from their work to date.

pacific coast action planGiven this international spotlight on local climate change work, a couple of recent publications emphasizing subnational climate change activity in the U.S. merit a closer look.  In VLS’s Top Ten Environmental Watchlist, my colleague Hillary Hoffmann analyzes the Pacific Coast Action Plan as a possible “blueprint for locally driven climate and energy policy.”  By signing it, the governors of California, Oregon, and Washington, and the premier of British Columbia agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote clean energy incentives along the Pacific Coast – and bypassed their respective federal legislatures!  As Washington Governor Jay Inslee summed up subnational pride and can-do attitude, “on the West Coast, we intend to design the future, not to wreck it.”

Together, California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia have a population of 53 million and a GDP of $2.8 trillion, making it the world’s fifth largest economy.  Given how their economies are regionally linked, the Action Plan’s signatories agreed to1) link carbon-pricing programs for “consistency and predictability;” 2) “harmonize 2050 targets for greenhouse gas reductions;” 3) ground all policies in the “scientific understanding of climate change;” 4) “adopt low-carbon fuel standards in each jurisdiction;” 5) have 10% of all “new public and private vehicle purchases” be electric by 2016; 6) support high-speed passenger rail service throughout the region; 7) support “emerging markets and innovation for alternative fuels;” 8) streamline “renewable energy infrastructure;” 9)“integrate the region’s electricity grids;” and 10) work together to “press for an international agreement on climate change in 2015.”

Hmmm, a bunch of leaders sitting in a room amidst their jurisdictions’ flags, negotiating mitigation targets, science-based standards, consistent carbon accounting rules . . . sound familiar, n’est-ce pas?

NYC high lineKudos to the Left Coast. So what’s happening on the Atlantic?  A recent article in the German newspaper, Der Spiegel, tells “a tale of two cities,” New York, NY and New Bern, NC, to emphasize how differently two East Coast cities are responding to climate change predictions in their urban planning.  In New York City, where the NY City Panel on Climate Change (NPCC) predicts that storms like Superstorm Sandy will occur every two years by 2100 and almost a million people will be living in flood-prone areas by 2050, Mayor Bloomberg launched PlaNYC. Its goal: reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent by 2030. How?  By renovating skyscrapers to use less energy, increasing green space, and improving walkability and bikeability. Der Spiegel notes that the city has already planted 800,000 new trees, made Times Square a pedestrian zone,  and constructed over 600 miles of bike paths, resulting in a 16% reduction in CO2 emissions since 2005.  On the adaptation front, flood wall construction is in the mix, along with other beach and land erosion techniques.

In contrast, when the North Carolina Coastal Resources Commission (CRC) issued a report predicting a sea-level rise of more than one meter and the NC Department of Public Safety determined that this rise would cost $7.4 billion to rebuild homes, office buildings, and public facilities wiped out by storm surges, the state legislature responded:  with a law that says that the sea level off the North Carolina coast will not rise more quickly than it has in the last 100 years. Period.  Thus urban planners, like those in New Bern, are instructed to disregard the CRC’s science-based advice, because North Carolina legislators forbid the seas to rise.

Maybe they recommend flood insurance, just in case?  (Read here to learn more about recent federal attempts to reform the National Flood Insurance Program.)

Stay tuned.  It will be interesting to watch how these subs change the state of play as they enter the international arena — and challenge some starter spots.


UPDATE:  The NYT 12/15 reports that as he prepares to leave office, Mayor Bloomberg is creating a consulting group to “reshape cities around the globe” staffed by many of his top NYC employees.  This development alone will fuel significant subnational activity at next year’s ADP negotiations.