Last year, President Trump’s announcement that the U.S. would secede from the Paris Agreement sent shockwaves through the global sustainability community. The agreement, signed by more than 190 countries to drive down carbon emissions and combat climate change, was still a new promise among global organizations, and the country’s sudden withdrawal brought with it a host of questions from sustainability professionals.
What if other countries follow suit and leave the agreement? Will U.S.-based organizations still uphold their corporate missions to promote sustainability despite no governmental intervention requiring it? How will the country’s withdrawal contribute to global emissions – and what does that mean for the other countries trying to combat those emissions?
These are all valid questions considering the U.S. has historically been a leading contributor of carbon emissions. In fact, since 1965, no other country has put more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than the United States. While U.S. CO2 emissions declined 14 percent from 2005 to 2017, the Energy Information Administration projects that emissions will rise 1.8 percent in 2018, perhaps due in part to the U.S.’s withdrawal from the agreement.
Sustainability Leaders, Fear Not: U.S. Coalitions Combatting Emissions
Global brands are increasingly leveraging science-based targets to drive climate action progress. In fact, over 200 of the world’s largest companies, including Nokia, Unilever and GlaxoSmithKline are using science-based carbon emission reductions. Our recent webinar with Andrew Winston, globally recognized eco-expert, discusses where companies can focus their efforts first and key factors to integrate targets in global supply chains for success.
As it turns out, too, a myriad of leaders from American universities, states, cities and companies vowed they would continue delivering on climate targets. Instead of enabling organizations to operate unsustainably, Trump’s announcement created a groundswell of support across industries to uphold sustainability commitments to limit the effects of climate change. Several coalitions have sprung up in the last year to track how cities and states can still follow the Paris goals.
One of the most popular is the We Are Still In initiative, spearheaded by former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and California governor Jerry Brown. After just over one year, We Are Still In is 2,842 leaders strong, representing nearly 174 million people across 50 states, and includes pledges from popular U.S. brands like Amazon, Levi Strauss and Google. The coalition was created as private-sector America’s promise to world leaders that Americans would not retreat from the global pact.
In May, Bloomberg Philanthropies announced the American Cities Climate Challenge, which is a $70 million program that will see 20 leadership cities receive new resources and support to help them meet or exceed near-term carbon reduction goals. However, this isn’t the only state-level program meant to help leading U.S. cities promote a sustainable future for its residents. Energy-conscious states are expected to introduce carbon taxing in the coming years to offset the federal government’s exit from the Paris Agreement.
In Massachusetts, for example, state representative Jennifer Benson wants to establish a fee of $20 per ton on carbon dioxide, which would be paid by the consumer filling up their car at the gas station or getting home heating oil delivered. While 20 percent of the tax would fund transportation infrastructure and renewable energy projects, 80 percent would be refunded to taxpayers based on income. The move is an attempt to reduce greenhouse gases and promote more fuel-efficient vehicles and create more jobs in the renewable energy sector.
Climate action is just as popular in other areas of the country, as well. Consider the Climate Mayors initiative, which serves as a voice for 406 U.S. mayors committed to upholding Paris Agreement goals and accelerate U.S. cities’ climate progress. In fact, more than 70 cities have already adopted ambitious 100 percent clean energy goals, and five have already hit their targets. This proactive drive to increase sustainability efforts is just one step toward a greener future, but swift action must be taken to ensure these cities meet their goals by their respective deadlines – some, like Boulder, Colorado, as soon as 2030.
The public sector’s key to climate change success is seeking out additional resources to back their growing initiatives. For example, the Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council (SPLC) connects buyers, suppliers and public interest advocates to develop programs that simplify and standardize sustainable purchasing efforts by large organizations. SPLC’s members span industries from apparel to higher-education and local government, making it an appealing resource for state-level representatives looking to reinforce sustainability regionally.
A Green Future Is Possible, But How Do We Get There?
We Are Still In, the Mayors Compact, and state- and city-level representatives have been driving more intense sustainability efforts over the last year. With earlier targets and more action to increase energy-efficient technologies, their ambitious goals can be reached as long as they have complete buy-in from local governments.
For now, it’s seemingly up to the private sector and state-level government representatives to keep the U.S. on track toward a sustainable future.
Interested in learning more about how you can limit your supply chain’s effect on climate change? Check out how science-based targets can help.
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