Local Climate Pledges Not Enough to Undo National Inaction

Pledges by cities, states, and businesses to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions can have a significant impact toward meeting goals set in the Paris Climate Agreement, but local action alone is not enough to keep global temperature increases below 2 degrees Celsius, according to a new report.

The study took into account the climate commitments made by nearly 6,000 cities, states, and regions, representing seven percent of the global population. It also included the pledges from more than 2,000 companies whose combined revenue — more than $21 trillion — was nearly the size of the United States’ economy. The research —  conducted by scientists at Data-Driven Yale, the NewClimate Institute, and PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency — is the most comprehensive assessment to date of city, regional, and corporate commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Those combined pledges projected a total reduction of 1.5 billion to 2.2 billion tons of greenhouse gases annually by 2030 — a relatively minor reduction given that current annual CO2 emissions equal 30 to 35 billion tons.

In the U.S. alone, the impact of city, regional, and state pledges could be substantial, potentially reducing emissions at least halfway to the U.S.’s original target under the Paris Agreement.

However, these local emissions cuts still fall short of avoiding the dangerous thresholds that could trigger increased heatwaves, rising seas, and more severe storms. And even if every Paris commitment is fully implemented, the world is on track to warm by nearly 3.3 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, The Guardian reported.

“When we look at the individual pledges [by cities, regions, and businesses] the impact isn’t that large, so we absolutely need national governments to pull through and do a lot of the heavy lifting,” said Angel Hsu, the director of Data-Drive Yale. 

Christian Detisch