Story at a glance

  • A report from the Environmental Defense Fund reveals most states won’t cut emissions to where they need to be to coincide with the Paris Agreement.
  • Experts say strong state policies are critical to reduce carbon pollution.

A new analysis issued by the Environmental Defense Fund reveals that U.S. states and territories are underperforming on their climate goals.

The studyreleased Tuesday, looked at emissions data from the Rhodium Group from 25 states and Puerto Rico, all of which individually committed to the Paris Climate goals, which would require greenhouse gas emissions to be limited enough to prevent global temperatures from rising past an additional 1.5 degrees Celsius. 

The target evaluated set for each state would require them to cumulatively reduce emissions by about 45 percent to reach a goal consistent with the Paris Agreement.


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States are broadly off track; collectively, they are projected to reduce emissions by 11 percent from 2010 levels, well below the 45 percent needed to reach their original goal by 2030.

Researchers emphasize that strong public policy is critical to states meeting their climate goals. 

“State leaders need to build on the momentum they created by setting climate targets, publicly acknowledge their current emissions gaps, and take policy action to achieve the cumulative reductions consistent with achieving their targets,” the report read. 

Enforceable caps on carbon emissions are a key example in how to reduce sector, source and economy-based emissions. Investment in clean energy and technology, as well as a potential pollution tax, are also recommended approaches. 

“This analysis sends a clear signal to governors and state lawmakers: making a climate commitment is only the starting point – not the finish line,” Pam Kiely, the senior director for Regulatory Strategy at EDF, said. 

The findings come at a crucial time for climate change policy in the U.S., particularly on the federal level. President Trump’s executive order removing the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement became official on Nov. 4, and his administration has rolled back other key environmental protections.

At the same time, President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to rejoin the Paris Agreement, but Kiely notes that local and state governments still play a larger role in reducing emissions. 

“Even under a new president with a meaningful climate agenda, state policies are essential for securing significant and immediate reductions in climate-warming pollution that can reduce long-term climate damages,” she said. “It’s also time for states that haven’t made a climate commitment to join the effort to reduce pollution and safeguard our health, economy and ecosystems. With a vanishing window to take transformative action, state leaders have to put their foot on the pedal today.”


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Published on Dec 08, 2020