The nation’s new front line of defense against climate change.
It’s a precarious time for federal climate change action in the US, to say the least. Just last week, a sweeping executive order signed by President Trump moved to roll back the Obama administration’s flagship Clean Power Plan to curb greenhouse gas emissions from power plants—the latest in a series of efforts by Congress and the White House to repeal various Obama-era rules.
But even as the Trump administration continues reversing federal environmental regulations, state governments are stepping up as the nation’s new front line of defense against climate change. The same day as last week’s executive order was revealed, Gov. Jerry Brown of California and Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York released a joint statement reaffirming their commitment to curbing their states’ carbon emissions.
“Climate change is real and will not be wished away by rhetoric or denial,” the statement said. “We stand together with a majority of the American people in supporting bold actions to protect our communities from the dire consequences of climate change.”
California and New York currently maintain some of the nation’s most ambitious state-level climate action plans, including goals in both states to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions 40% below their 1990 levels by the year 2030, and 80% by the year 2050. Both states also have plans for the advancement of clean energy and energy efficiency programs, and both participate in carbon pricing schemes—California has had its own statewide cap-and-trade program since 2012, and New York is one of nine northeastern states participating in a joint cap-and-trade scheme known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
These goals are even more ambitious than the federal targets previously set by the Obama administration, which pledged to reduce U.S. emissions by 26-28% below their 2005 levels by the year 2025.
But New York and California are hardly the only states in the nation with climate action plans in place. In fact, states and even cities began creating their own climate mitigation strategies even before the federal government began to act on climate change, according to Serena Alexander, a professor of urban and regional planning at San Jose State University who has conducted research on the effectiveness of state-level climate action plans.