Twelve states and provinces representing 100 million people from seven countries have committed to dramatically reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) hosted the May 19 event in Sacramento commemorating the official signing of the agreement by so-called "subnational" state and provincial governments.
The Subnational Global Climate Leadership Memorandum of Understanding is part of a growing momentum on climate action in the lead-up to the UN climate talks that will be taking place in Paris at the end of the year.
The founding signatories of the agreement are from three continents and have a combined GDP of $4.5 trillion, which would constitute the fourth largest economic entity in the world; they are:
Baja California, Mexico*
British Columbia, Canada
California, United States*
Oregon, United States
Vermont, United States
Wales, United Kingdom
Washington, United States
(* indicates the jurisdiction attended the May 19 signing ceremony)
The signers committed that by 2050 they would cut total emissions 80-95% percent below 1990 levels or achieve a per capita emissions target of below two metric tons.
The agreement is being referred to as the “Under 2 MOU,” a play both on this per capita target of two metric tons, and the goal of limiting global temperature rise to under 2 degrees, which Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scientists say is needed to avoid dangerous climate change.
The jurisdictions will take a number of steps to achieve these goals, including: establishing midterm emissions reductions targets for 2030 or earlier; increasing energy efficiency and renewable energy; and coordinating on specific areas such as science, transportation and short-lived climate pollutants.
The governments have also agreed to collaborate on climate change adaptation and resilience measures.
Fred Krupp, president of EDF, said in a news release on the day of the signing:
"This agreement is further proof that states, provinces, and cities are forging ahead with climate solutions, not waiting for others to act. By taking this bold step, California and the other partners will not only secure significant emissions reductions but also demonstrate that climate action and prosperity go hand in hand. As we look ahead to the climate conference in Paris at the end of the year, today’s announcement sets a strong example for countries to follow."
Why action by subnational governments is important
Subnational governments are particularly well suited to address climate change because their decisions can influence 50-80% of greenhouse gas mitigation and adaptation initiatives needed to address climate change, according to the UN Development Program.
For example, subnational governments develop and implement policies that have the most impact on climate change, including in the areas of air quality, transportation, and energy. These governments can also serve as the laboratories for policy innovations that are adopted at national and international levels. And these jurisdictions can provide the critical link in the integration of climate policies between national and local governments.
Derek Walker, EDF’s Associate Vice President, U.S. Climate and Energy Program said of the agreement:
"These subnational leaders understand first-hand that the future of people and the planet are at stake, and they are committing to concrete measures that will help us turn the corner in the fight against climate change. Today’s agreement demonstrates how dynamic climate leaders can create solutions that can be replicated elsewhere and can pave the way for more ambitious action."
More state, regional and city governments are expected to sign the agreement in the coming months.
(Photo: Governor Brown and international leaders sign Under 2 MOU. Credit: Joe McHugh, California Highway Patrol)