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EXECUTIVE PERSPECTIVE: U.S. Cities Step into Leadership on Climate


11 Jun 2018

11 June 2018

“U.S. cities can contribute more than one-third of the emissions reductions needed by 2025 to meet the U.S. target under the Paris Agreement”

In this post from C40, a network of the world’s megacities committed to addressing climate change, we hear an update on the more local reaction from cities in the United States to the decision by the Trump Administration to begin to pull out of the Paris Accord.  C40 supports cities to drive meaningful, measurable and sustainable action on climate change.   Tim Nixon, Managing Editor, Thomson Reuters Sustainability.

It has been one year since President Trump announced the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. But climate action in the U.S. has only accelerated – thanks to mayors. 

C40 mayors in Austin, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington DC have charged ahead with pioneering and innovative policies and programs to tackle climate change and reduce GHG emissions.

Cities’ commitments are significant: recent C40 research shows that U.S. cities can contribute more than one-third of the emissions reductions needed by 2025 to meet the U.S. target under the Paris Agreement. City accomplishments over the last twelve months include:

Cities Reject Trump’s Policies

  • Paris Climate Agreement: When President Trump announced the withdrawal from the Paris Agreement in June of last year, US mayors pushed back – with hundreds of mayors pledging to adopt, honor and uphold the agreement’s goals. Mayors of AustinBostonChicagoHoustonLos AngelesNew OrleansNew York City, PhiladelphiaPortland,  San FranciscoSeattle and Washington D.C. affirmed their commitments to meet the emissions guidelines under the Paris Agreement.
    • Mayors were crucial in driving stakeholders in a broader coalition of subnational actors – including governors, businesses, universities and investors – that came together and pledged to uphold the Paris Agreement in lieu of action by the national government.
  • Clean Power Plan: In October 2017, following the Trump administration’s decision to repeal the Clean Power Plan of 2015, the Climate Mayors group, including C40 cities including Houston andPhiladelphia, rejected the decision.
  • Protecting EPA Climate Change Information:Following the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to remove climate change information and key facts from its website in October 2017, seventeen U.S. cities including C40 Cities Boston, Chicago, Houston, New Orleans, Portland, San Francisco, and Seattle announced their decision to upload the deleted information to their city’s websites.
  • Chicago Climate Charter: The City of Chicago and over 50 other global cities signed the Chicago Climate Charter at the North American Climate Summit in December 2017.

Clean Energy Deployment

  • Los Angeles completed the ‘world’s most powerful rooftop solar project’ in June 2017. The 16.4 Megawatt Westmont Solar Energy Project in San Pedro now generates enough power for over 5,000 homes, and comprises of 50,000 solar panels, covering 50 acres of roof space.
  • New York City filed a lawsuit against the largest five fossil fuel companies in January 2018, seeking damages to help protect the city from climate change, alleging that the companies – BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, and Royal Dutch Shell – were aware of the climate impact of burning fossil fuels as far back as the 1980s.
  • In June 2017, Philadelphia committed to 100 percent renewable energy by 2035.
  • New York City announced that its $189 billion pension funds would divest from fossil fuel reserve owners over the next five years.
  • Portland has committed to meeting 100 percent of its energy needs with renewable energy by 2050. The resolution also commits to minimizing new fossil fuel infrastructure projects and accelerating the transition to renewable energy.

Cleaner Transport for Healthier Cities

  • report authored by BNEF on behalf of C40 Cities Climate Leadership found that the total cost of ownership of electric buses has not only reached parity with diesel, but it is now often lower.
  • In April 2018, New York City set a goal for an all-electric bus fleet by 2040. A previous study by Columbia University found this move could cut carbon dioxide emissions across the fleet by575,000 metric tons per year.
  • In May 2018, San Francisco committed to achieving a zero emissions public transportation fleet by 2035.
  • New Orleans published their first city-wideclimate action plan in the summer of 2017.
  • By signing C40’s Fossil Fuel Free Streets Declaration in October 2017, Los Angeles and Seattle pledged to purchase only zero-emission buses from 2025 and eliminate emissions in designated areas by 2030.
  • In December 2017, New York City announced theNYCx Moonshot Challenge, a global tech competition that will help the city achieve climate goals and accelerate the transition to electric vehicles.

Emissions Reductions

  • Through C40’s Deadline 2020 program, Austin, Boston, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Portland and Washington DC have committed to implementing ambitious climate action plans by 2020 that outline how the city will emissions-neutral and climate resilient by 2050 while addressing inclusivity. 
  • In September 2017, New York City became the first city to mandate dramatic greenhouse gas reductions for existing buildings. Specifically, the initiative requires major efficiency upgrades for the city’s 14,500 least efficient buildings.
    • In October, New York announced that a benchmarking program started in 2010 has cut 600,000 tons of greenhouse gas from private buildings. Building upgrade projects are expected to yield more than $68 million in avoided annual energy costs and approximately 187,000 metric tons of avoided GHG emissions, the equivalent of taking more than 40,000 cars off the road.The C40 cities Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and Chicago have also since adopted the process.
  • Washington D.C.’s citywide leaf collection program helped compost nearly 8,000 tons of leaves between November 6, 2017 and January 12, 2018.
  • New York published the first-ever city plan to meet the 1.5-degree goal of the Paris Agreement, and also delivers a goal of carbon neutrality by 2050.
  • Boston has launched several major initiatives this year to advance its climate goals and accelerate progress. Carbon Free Boston is analyzing the impacts, costs, and benefits of strategies to achieve deep decarbonization. Climate Ready Boston is identifying actions the city can take now to address near- and long-term coastal flooding and extreme heat. With the release of its first neighborhood coastal resilience plan the city announced immediate steps it is taking to protect vulnerable neighborhoods. Zero Waste Boston is identifying pathways to turn Boston into a zero waste city through planning, policy, and community engagement. These projects will all contribute to the release of the City’s updated, emissions-neutral and resilient, climate action plan in the coming year.




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