With local action, major economies can get closer to meeting Paris climate targets

A new report finds that action by cities, states, regions and business can go a long way towards meeting the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, but their actions alone are not enough to hold global temperature increase to well-below 2°C and work towards limiting it to 1.5° C.

The report, authored by experts at Data-Driven Yale, NewClimate Institute, PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, in partnership with CDP, is the most comprehensive assessment to date of city, region, and company commitments to reduce greenhouse gases.

“The potential of these commitments to help the world avoid dangerous climate change is clear – the key is now to ensure that these commitments are really implemented,” said Angel Hsu, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies at Yale-NUS College and Director of Data-Driven Yale.

“What our report shows is many actors are signing up to take actions, but their ambition and ability to move us faster and closer to reach the Paris climate goals in time is limited. What’s needed now is the financing, policies, and support to urgently realize these efforts.”

Key findings from the report include:

  • By 2030, global greenhouse gas emissions could be 1.5 to 2.2 GtCO2e/year lower if individual commitments from nearly 6,000 cities, states and regions, and over 2,000 companies are fully implemented, compared to what would be achieved through national policies that are currently underway. This potential reduction amounts to roughly double Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2016.
  • In the United States, where President Trump has announced his intent to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, the full implementation of the reported and quantified individual city, region, and company commitments could provide at least half (between 670 and 810 MtCO2e/year in 2030) of the emissions reductions needed to meet America’s Paris pledge.
  • In the European Union, city, region and company commitments could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 230 to 445 MtCO2e/year, roughly equivalent to Italy’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2016. In China, these actions could reduce emissions by up to 155 MtCO2e, roughly equivalent to what the country’s industrial processes generated in 2014.

“Our analysis includes only recorded, quantified commitments -- a fraction of all of cities, regions, companies and cooperative initiatives’ climate activities. However, there’s also a risk that these emission reductions do not materialize, if regions, states, cities and companies don’t deliver on their promises, or if efforts from national governments or other actors slow,” said Mark Roelfsema of PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency. While the report does not attempt to predict this behavior, it could drastically shape the course of future emissions.

The report will inform deliberations at next month’s Global Climate Action Summit, held in San Francisco. This event, convened by California Governor Jerry Brown, will showcase the climate leadership of states, regions, cities, businesses, investors and citizens, and highlight significant new commitments by these actors, including new efforts to work together to increase the impact of their actions.

Global greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 would be approximately one-third (15-23 GtCO2e/year) lower than what will be achieved through national policies alone if international cooperative initiatives like the Under2 Coalition and Global Covenant of Mayors grow their membership, meet their goals and are in addition to existing action. The United States, for example, could meet and even exceed its original Paris Agreement pledge if all international cooperative initiatives reach their goals.

“Our results confirm that city, region and business commitments to climate action represent a significant step forward towards the Paris Agreement’s goals,” said Prof. Dr. Niklas Höhne of NewClimate Institute. “The effect of international cooperative initiatives’ climate goals is particularly encouraging, and speaks to the potential for deeper emissions cuts when national governments partner with city, region, company, and civil society actors. The pledges under the Paris Agreement for all studied countries would be more ambitious, if they were brought in line with the stated goals of the international cooperative initiatives.”


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