Compact of States and Regions: Save more emissions than the U.S. produces

Compact of States and Regions: Save more emissions than the U.S. produces

The Climate Group
These 20 governments have reported for the first time to the U.N.'s Compact of States and Regions.

Twenty regional, provincial and state governments from around the globe committed to reduce their carbon emissions within 15 years by 7.9 gigatons — an amount similar to the total yearly emissions from the United States.

Calling themselves collectively the Compact of States and Regions, the group — which includes California, New York, Oregon and Washington states in the U.S; Catalonia, Spain; Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo in Brazil; Wales; Scotland; Lombardy, Italy; and others in Canada, Mexico, Germany, France and Australia — has a combined population of 220 million and accounts for $8.3 trillion in gross domestic product, or roughly 10 percent of the global economy. Currently it emits about 1.8 gigatons of carbon a year. 

They announced their commitment from New York City where international diplomats, businesses, NGOs, regional and municipal government officials, scientists and individuals are convening for Climate Week — a series of meetings aimed at building momentum towards a hoped for international climate agreement at the United Nations Conference of Parties "COP 21" climate conference in Paris in December.

You might call the state and regional move a gauntlet thrown to their national counterparts to get real about agreeing to a plan to reduce global warming.

For nearly two decades, U.N. climate talks among national leaders have not succeeded at crafting any meaningful agreements on how they would all work to reduce global greenhouse emissions. Some nations — notably the U.S. and China — wouldn't sign tentative agreements, while others wouldn't follow them. 

But this year, businesses, regional and city governments and NGOs are participating — on the wager that pressure from them will goad national governments into action. Unilever and Marks and Spencer began Climate Week with announcements too on Monday, with Unilever launching a peace initiative and commitments to the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. Then the states and regions came out with their plan today.

“States, provinces and regions across the globe aren't waiting to act on climate change. With this compact — and the Under 2 MOU —  we’re facing the future and seriously confronting the existential threat of climate change,” said Gov. Jerry Brown of California, the U.S. state that's been the most aggressive in trying to legislate carbon reductions. While critics have laughed that one state in one country cannot put a meaningful dent in climate change, Brown and his predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, both pushed through the state’s rigorous Global Warming Solutions Act in hopes others would follow. Some have; Quebec joined California’s cap and trade system created by that act while numerous countries since have implemented similar carbon cap and trade or carbon taxation systems.

The states and regions in the compact were organized, however, by NGOs. The Compact of States and Regions is a partnership among The Climate Group, CDPR20 and nrg4SD

What they're committing 

The state and regional commitments are significant, typically pegged to reduce carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030, and will require deliberate policy actions. They differ by the economic characteristics of their regions.

Rio de Janeiro, for instance, said most of its carbon emissions come from cars and trucks, so it aims to cut transportation emissions by 5.4 million tons or 30 percent.

In Catalonia, by comparison, the key GHG issue is preventing deforestation. About 65 percent of Catalonia’s territory is forest, so “the Government’s priority is to carry out a sustainable management of this forest, rather than reforestation activities” (PDF). 

The Rhône-Alpes region of France is focusing on emissions from buildings. It said it's aiming for a 32 percent reduction in GHG emissions in residential buildings and a 34 percent reduction in tertiary buildings by 2020 (from 1990 levels) through energy efficiency and by investing in renewables. It hopes to get 29 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2030.

New York state, where more than half the population is crowded into 4 percent of the sprawling land, aims to reduce emissions from its energy sector by 40 percent by 2030 by increasing generation from renewables and through energy efficiency. It aims to get half its electricity from renewables sources by 2030. 

New York is also working on its transportation sector. It reduced emissions from fuel combustion by 24 percent between 2005 and 2012 and it wants to build on that by continuing incentives for people to use public transportation or drive zero emissions vehicles. It said it wants to accommodate 30,000 EVs within a couple years by building charging stations. In its upstate farmland communities, New York has encouraged carbon sequestration.

Baden-Württemberg, Germany, where the economy is driven by technology companies, also targets transportation, which creates the biggest chunk of its CO2 emissions at 30 percent.

It plans to implement a traffic plan based on what it calls “integrated environmental mobility,” asking everyone to walk, bicycle or take public transport. Electro-mobility is considered a major focal point of its future energy policy. Twenty percent of its reduction will come from buildings and 20 percent from electricity, where it already uses mostly hydropower.

The Climate Group