The author of today's post, Derek Walker, is the Deputy Director of the State Climate Campaign at Environmental Defense.
We need federal legislation to solve the global warming crisis – there's no doubt about that. But state and local governments don't have to sit around waiting while the federal debate goes on – and many aren't. States and cities across the country are taking the lead on a wide range of climate issues, demonstrating the political courage and policy innovation needed to protect our planet from the most dangerous effects of global warming.
- California enacted the first mandatory state-wide emissions cap, to reduce their emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Other states have followed suit. New Jersey and Hawaii have passed emissions caps, and the governors of Minnesota and Florida have announced emissions targets.
- California passed stringent CO2 emissions standards for cars and trucks that have been adopted by 14 states. When automakers challenged this, a Vermont federal judge upheld its legality. (The EPA still must approve the new standards before they can be enforced.)
- This past July, the governors of California and Florida signed cooperation pacts with Germany and Britain to share energy-saving technologies and discuss post-Kyoto protocols. Sadly, our federal government has been reluctant to sign international climate treaties.
- States have joined forces to fight global warming in regional initiatives representing more than half the country. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), for example, is a consortium of nine states in the northeast. The Western Climate Initiative (WCI) is a compact that several western U.S. states, Mexican states, and Canadian provinces have joined or are observing.
- More than three-quarters of U.S. states have joined The Climate Registry to develop and manage a greenhouse gas reporting system.
- There is an agreement among mayors of over 530 cities in all 50 states to follow the emissions-reductions standards of the Kyoto protocol.
- New York City's Mayor Bloomberg has been particularly active in fighting global warming. His PlaNYC proposal will quadruple bike lanes, convert taxis to hybrids, and impose a congestion fee for driving into Manhattan. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and other big-city mayors also have announced climate action plans.
- This month the National Governors Association (NGA) launched an initiative called Securing a Clean Energy Future. In an interview with the Associated Press, NGA chair Gov. Tim Pawlenty, R-Minn. said, "We have a federal government that doesn't seem to want to move as fast or as bold as many would like." If enough states act to curtail greenhouse gases, "it becomes a de facto national policy."
These are just a few examples of what state and local governments are doing. To learn more, check out this excellent summary of state actions [PDF]. The leadership of state and local officials helps to drive action at the national and international level, and models best practices for future policymaking.