The Paris climate accord signed in 2015 represents an agreement between national governments to limit the rise of global average temperatures to no more than 2º Celsius. National goals are all well and good, but the real work is done down in the trenches by individual states, mayors, city councils, and non-governmental organizations like universities and environmental advocacy groups.
Yale Environment 360
A recent blog post on Yale Environment 360 argues, “Much of the progress in reducing CO2 emissions is being driven by mayors, governors, premiers, and corporate executives. It’s time to acknowledge that reality and move beyond traditional diplomacy by allowing cities, states, and companies to officially sign on to the Paris Agreement.” California governor Jerry Brown is leading the movement toward renewable energy in the US with a pledge to support the Paris accords regardless of what the federal government done. Lots of other governors and local leaders are following his lead.
Not only would those local and regional organizations help offset the threat by America’s #Fake President (get your CleanTechnica T-shirt here) to cancel US participation in the Paris agreement, it would also form a basis for the creation of a universal carbon emissions tracking system that would be more accurate and up to date than anything that exists today.
Such a tracking system “could do for emissions accounting what generally accepted accounting principles did for financial accounting, establishing clarity, comparability, and integrity.” With such a framework in place, the world would be able to measure and thus manage the collective task ahead of bringing down greenhouse gas emissions.
“It is an old adage that what gets measured gets managed,” the blog post says. “With global CO2 emissions rising in many countries as the world economy strengthens, measuring and reporting emissions takes on added urgency as a way to signal where the combustion of fossil fuels is going in the wrong direction.”
Corporations could become signatories to the Paris agreement, too, if the Yale Environment 360 proposal is adopted. The We Mean Business Coalition now features 670 corporate members worldwide with a total market capitalization of nearly $16 trillion dollars. Why should groups like that not be allowed to sign on to the Paris climate accords?
A Statement By 180 US Mayors
On March 21, a letter signed by 180 US mayors representing both political parties was made public. In it, the local leaders called for more investment in renewable solar energy.
“Accelerating the growth of solar will reduce pollution while revitalizing our communities by creating jobs and keeping energy dollars in our local economies. Expanding solar power helps residents and businesses benefit from lower energy costs while providing more local control of energy and improving our communities’ resilience.
“Therefore, solar energy can and should be a much larger part of our energy mix than it is today. The U.S. has the potential to produce 100 times more solar power than the total amount of energy we consume each year. We must continue to harness this vast source of clean energy for the benefit of all of our citizens.”
Emma Searson heads Environment America’s Go Solar Campaign. She says her group puts a priority on working with mayors who are interested in “actually backing up their signature on this letter with some real action on solar energy, so we want to be helpful in that area moving forward.” To help city officials make progress toward their renewable energy goals, Environment America has put together a list called Ten Ways Your City Can Go Solar which offers tips to city governments including “guarantee solar rights,” “partner with utilities” and “eliminate red tape.”
“All politics is local,” former Speaker of the House TIP O’Neill liked to say. It’s one thing for community leaders to sign pieces of paper making lofty promises, but it will take individuals like ourselves to make sure those promises are translated into action. That may mean contacting your local representatives or attending a city council meeting or two. Not all of us can accomplish what a Jerry Brown or a Michael Bloomberg can, but all of us working together can make a difference. Witness the stunning collective action that resulted when the students in Parkland, Florida decided to raise their voices in unison to oppose the lack of effective gun laws. Whatever you can do, make sure you do your part.