President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Accords is disheartening for many that work in and around the renewable energy industries, and believe in the importance of a truly diversified energy portfolio. While it is certainly not a perfect agreement, 195, now 194, countries from around the world recognized a pressing need to take steps to cut carbon emissions and attempt to turn the tide on climate change. That level of unity across cultural and national boundaries is unprecedented, and underscores the importance of the ultimate goal. The withdrawal of the United States from that coalition is disappointing on many levels.
However, out of that disappointment, an uplifting trend is beginning to emerge. Where the United States federal government has refused to act, state and local governments are picking up the slack. There are several fantastic examples. On June 1, Hiroki Tabuchi and Henry Fountain of the New York Times reported that a group of 30 mayors, 3 governors, more than 80 university presidents and more than 100 businesses are negotiating with the United Nations to enter into an individual commitment that could equal or even exceed the United States’ previous commitment under the Accord. In that same vein, just yesterday, the New York Times reporter Jonah Engel Bromwich’s published an article on Hawaii’s passage of two pieces of legislation committing to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris Agreement.
In many ways, this shift to more locally-driven climate policy is not surprising. Over the last decade, state and local governments have been arguably the most significant drivers of encouraging renewable energy developments in the United States. Currently, 29 states have adopted renewable portfolio standards that require a certain percentage of the electricity produced by local utilities come from renewable sources, and 8 more states have adopted voluntary renewable energy goals. Hawaii and California stand out as particular leaders in this regard. Hawaii has passed legislation requiring 100% of its net electricity sales to be derived from renewable resources by 2045. In California, which currently has a 50% renewables by 2030 requirement, the State Senate just last week passed legislation that would require 100% renewables by 2045, with 50% by 2026. The U.S. federal government, by contrast, has entertained several federal renewable portfolio standard bills since 2009, but has failed to gain any serious traction.
All in all, perhaps it makes sense for state and local governments to take the reins on climate policy. After all, the economic case for vigorously pursuing a more diversified energy portfolio is strong, and it is the individual localities that host projects that can best gauge the economic benefits received through increased tax revenues, landowner payments, and new jobs. Where the federal government has dropped the ball, the answer might very well be for state and local governments to take the lead.
As always, if you have any questions about any of the issues discussed herein, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or give me a call at (816)572-4756.