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While the COP21 Paris climate talks edge closer to conclusion, scores of local government leaders have come out swinging with strong climate goals.

Clean Power

Local Leaders Rewrite COP21 Script With Their Own Climate Change Pledges

While the COP21 Paris climate talks edge closer to conclusion, scores of local government leaders have come out swinging with strong climate goals.

The first week of the COP21 Paris climate talks went slowly along, but this week promises some fireworks. Earlier today, a group of 44 individual states and regions from around the globe seized the COP21 spotlight with an announcement pledging their own carbon goals through an initiative called The Compact of States and Regions, regardless of what their home countries settle on. That’s just for starters. Later this week, more than 200 US legislators will launch a climate pledge of their own despite the efforts of Republicans in Congress to undermine the US position in Paris.

More COP21 Paris climate pledges

The Climate Group And COP21

If you’ve never heard of The Compact of States and Regions before, join the club. It was just launched last year as a United Nations-supported greenhouse gas reporting platform that joins the nonprofit organization The Climate Group and several other sustainability organizations.

Together, the Compact governments currently include 44 entities spread across 18 different countries, totaling about 325 million people and accounting for more than 1/8 of the global economy. All together, the Compact members represent more than 12% of global emissions. If those figures sound a bit high, keep in mind that California is a member along with several other US states.

In today’s announcement, the Compact governments pledge to reduce their emissions by an impressive 12.4 GtC02e (gigatonnes of carbon emission) by 2030, a figure that is apparently more than China’s current annual output.

That’s big news, but it’s nothing compared to the 2050 goal, which is a whopping 47.4 GtCO2e by 2050. According to The Climate Group, that’s equivalent to total world GHG emissions in 2012


The question is how the Compact members expect to get so far, so fast. We already know that Bill Gates and his new Breakthrough Energy Coalition are banking on nuclear energy to ramp up global carbon management efforts, though the group’s launch at COP21 portrayed its aims more broadly.

The Climate Group is also a nuclear advocate, though it appears to be adapting that stance to the rapid progress of wind, solar, and energy storage. Last year, for example, The Climate Group reported on an analysis from the organization WorldWatch Institute that noted rapid growth in the renewable energy sector. However, the Group’s conclusions were cautionary (emphasis theirs):

Despite solar and wind power’s growth though, due to their intermittent nature nuclear power remains an important energy source for some countries. Last year, nuclear’s share of energy production in France was 73.3%, with the nation’s 58 reactors generating 405,898.51 gigawatt-hours (GWh).


This gap between nuclear, solar and wind is set to last, with the IEA estimating average annual investments for nuclear energy of US$41-56 billion, wind US$76-113 billion, and solar PV US$49-71 billion over the next 21 years.


The data clearly shows how solar and wind energy are increasing in global capacity, but their electric generation remains low.

To be clear, both The Climate Group and the Breakthrough Energy Coalition have portrayed their clean energy aims with a broad brush, without specifically promoting nuclear energy. Others at COP, though, have been much more explicit about their belief that the nuclear sector must grow rapidly if the world’s nations are to bring their carbon emissions under control.

200 US Lawmakers And COP21

The nuclear picture is a little different when it comes to the group of more than 200 US legislators. While the US is still a global leader in terms of nuclear generation, there are a number of roadblocks to significant growth in the future, including the cost of nuclear facilities relative to the nation’s ample domestic supply of low-cost natural gas, utility-scale solar, and wind. Perceived risks, the growing availability of solar and wind, the rise of energy storage, and the emergence of new technologies for energy efficiency will also come into play.

As for the group’s COP21 climate pledge, it takes the form of a letter to President Barack Obama in support of the goal of achieving more than 50% clean energy by 2030, with the ultimate goal of 100% by 2050.

The group will officially launch the letter at the Climate Generations Area of the COP21 venue on Tuesday, December 28. An advance copy of the letter is available and it focuses strongly on US wind and solar resources:

Clean energy is an American success story. It is one of the fastest growing economic sectors in the United States and already provides 360,000 jobs. The solar industry alone employs 143,000 people—more individuals than work in coal mines — and grew 20 percent in 2014. Last year a new solar project was installed every 2.5 minutes.


States, cities and businesses are already paving the way with clean energy solutions that are substantially and cost-effectively transitioning our country away from dirty fossil fuels and towards clean sources like wind and solar…

If you read between the lines, that leaves plenty of room for growth in both nuclear energy and natural gas, but we’re guessing that the letter means just what it says.

That’s partly because one of the three signers leading the group of 200 is Frank Cownie, the Mayor of Des Moines, Iowa. Iowa is significant because it is a state in which nuclear growth has stalled, while renewables have soared.

On the nuclear side, Iowa has only one nuclear power plant and it was slated for another one, but the developer pulled the plug back in 2013. Reasons given were risk concerns following Japan’s Fukushima disaster as well as low natural gas prices.

That developer would be MidAmerican Energy, which should ring some bells because it’s a company of the well known US investor Warren Buffet.

Right around the same time that Buffet was cutting his nuclear losses in Iowa, he also upped the ante for renewable energy with a $1.9 billion commitment for wind farms in the same state.

Fast forward to COP21, and here’s some facts and figures sent to CleanTechnica on behalf of the Iowa Wind Energy Association:

In the coming weeks, Iowa’s MidAmerican Energy Company is completing over $2 billion in wind generation projects that will add over 1,200 megawatts of new wind generation. In total, MidAmerican Energy (which ranks #1 in ownership of wind-powered electric generation among U.S. rate-regulated utilities) will have approximately 3,500 megawatts of wind generation capacity in Iowa – enough to power the equivalent of more than one million average Iowa households.

According to our source, wind investment in Iowa totals $9.8 billion since 2004, and a roughly equal amount is expected to come in the next 3-5 years. That’s partly due to support for the wind industry from Iowa Governor Terry Branstad.

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Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Spoutible.


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