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  • International and other country information - see main Climate change article
  • Action ideas, USA links and other USA information - see main Climate change USA article

What's being done in the United States Edit

Across the country, states are achieving real emissions reductions and gaining valuable policy experience as they take action on climate change. These actions include increasing renewable energy generation, selling agricultural carbon sequestration credits, and encouraging efficient energy use. Many states are pursuing policies and programs that have climate benefits while at the same time hedging states' vulnerability to energy price spikes, promoting state economic development, and improving local air quality.

States often function as "policy laboratories", developing initiatives that serve as models for federal action. This has been especially true with environmental regulation--most federal environmental laws have been based on state models. In addition, state actions can have a significant impact on emissions, because many individual states emit high levels of greenhouse gases. Texas, for example, emits more than France, while California's emissions exceed those of Brazil.[[1]] State actions are also important because states have primary jurisdiction over many areas--such as electric generation, agriculture, and land use--that are critical to addressing climate change.

It is important to understand that states have limited resources to devote to the climate issue, and their strict budget requirements can put long-term climate policies in jeopardy. States also lack certain powers that would be crucial to a comprehensive climate change policy, such as the authority to enter into international agreements. Finally, when states take individual approaches on the issue, a "patchwork quilt" of policies can result across the nation. This patchwork of policies may be inefficient for complying business and may result in some states duplicating the work done in other states. While some states are delivering real reductions of GHG emissions only in a few cases do the reduction targets commensurate with what will be needed on a global scale.

Comprehensive climate plans combined with enforecable GHG emissions targets provide the highest certainty of significant emission reductions. Twenty-eight states have climate action plans and nine have state-wide emission targets. The states of California and New Mexico have committed most recently to emission reductions targets, joining New Jersey, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Washington and Oregon.

States that have declared GHG mitigation strategies or hold action plans


See separate article - Action on climate change in California


The state of Connecticut passed a number of bills on global warming in the early to mid 1990s, including -- in 1990 -- the first state global warming law to require specific actions for reducing CO2. Connecticut is one of the states that agreed, under the auspices of the New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers (NEG/ECP), to a voluntary short-term goal of reducing regional greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2010 and by 10 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. The NEG/ECP long-term goal is to reduce emissions to a level that eliminates any dangerous threats to the climate -- a goal scientists suggest will require reductions 75 to 85 percent below current levels[[2]]. These goals were announced in August 2001. The state has also acted to require incremental additions in renewable electric generation by 2009.[[3]]

Regional initiativesEdit

Regional initiatives can be more efficient than programs at the state level, as they encompass a broader geographical area, eliminate duplication of work, and create more uniform regulatory environments. Over the past few years, a number of regional initiatives have begun developing systems to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, increase renewable energy generation, track renewable energy credits, and research and establish baselines for carbon sequestration.

Regional Greenhouse Gas InitiativeEdit

In December 2005, the governors of seven Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states agreed to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a cap-and-trade system covering carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from regional power plants. Currently (at the time of this edit), Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, and Vermont have signed, and Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich signed legislation in March 2006 that commits Maryland to join RGGI by 2007. To facilitate compliance with reduction targets, RGGI will provide flexibility mechanisims that include credits for emissions reductions achieved outside of the electricity sector. The successful implementation of the RGGI model will set the stage for other states to join or form their own regional cap and trade systems and may encourage the program to expand to other greenhouse gases and other sectors.[[4]] RGGI states, along with Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, are also developing a GHG registry called the Eastern Climate Registry.

The Western Governors' AssociationEdit

The Western Governors' Association (WGA) Clean and Diversified Energy Initiative, including 18 western states, has begun investigating strategies to increase efficiency and renewable energy sources in their electricity systems. Governors Richardson (NM), Schwarzenegger (CA), Freudenthal (WY) & Hoeven (ND) serve as lead Governors on this initiative. To meet its goals, the Initiative's advisory committee (CDEAC) appointed eight technical task forces to develop recommendations based on reviews of specific clean energy and efficiency options. The CDEAC made final recommendations to the Western Governors' Association on June 11, 2006.[[5]] Additionally, the WGA and the California Energy Commission are creating the Western Renewable Energy Generation Information State (WREGIS). WREGIS is a voluntary system for renewable energy credits and tracks renewable energy credits (RECs) across 11 western states in order to facilitate trading to meet renewable energy portfolio standards.

Other regional initiativesEdit

The governors of Arizona and New Mexico signed an agreement to create the Southwest Climate Change Initiative in February 2006. The two states collaborated to assess greenhouse gas emissions and address the impacts of climate change in the Southwest [6] and on September 8, 2006, Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano issued an executive order to implement recommendations included in the Climate Change Advisory Group's Climate Action Plan. [7] The West Coast states--Washington, Oregon, and California--are cooperating on a strategy to reduce GHG emissions, known as the Western Coast Governors' Global Warming Initiative. Finally, on February 26, 2007, these five Western states (Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, and New Mexico) agreed to combine their efforts to develop regional targets for reducing greenhouse emissions, creating the Western Regional Climate Action Initiative. [8]

In 2001 six New England states committed to the New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers (NEG-ECP) climate action plan, including short and long-term GHG emission reduction goals. Powering the Plains, launched in 2002, is a regional effort involving participants from the Dakotas, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and the Canadian Province of Manitoba. This initiative aims to develop strategies, policies, and demonstration projects for alternative energy sources and technology and climate-friendly agricultural development. [9]

Local governmentsEdit

Local governments have many approaches and motives for undertaking and achieving reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and each is governed by a variety of philosophies and ideals. Jurisdictions participating in reducing global warming pollution more often than not are motivated by the desire to simply cut traffic, save tax dollars, clean the air, and improve quality of life in their communities. In seeking to embrace a process that is compatible with their own jurisdiction, local governments occasionally develop collaborative agreements with organizations that advocate for a specific approach in order to simplify access to mechanisms for achieving results. There is no single approach that can be universally applied at this level effectively, but the inheret diversity of communities in themselves has sparked many creative approaches that can be further developed and applied on a larger level.


In 1993, at the invitation of ICLEI, municipal leaders met at the United Nations in New York and adopted a declaration that called for the establishment of a worldwide movement of local governments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve air quality, and enhance urban sustainability. The result was the Cities for Climate Protection (CCP) Campaign. Since its inception, the CCP Campaign has grown to involve more than 650 local governments worldwide that are integrating climate change mitigation into their decision-making processes.[10]

U.S. Mayors' Climate Protection AgreementEdit

On February 16, 2005 Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels launched an initiative to advance the goals of the Kyoto Protocol through leadership and action by at least 141 American cities, and currently as of October, 2006, 319 mayors representing over 51.4 million Americans have accepted the challenge.[11] Under the US Mayors' Climate Protection Agreement, cities must commit to three actions in striving to meet the Kyoto Protocol in their own communities.[12] These actions include:

  • Strive to meet or beat the Kyoto Protocol targets in their own communities, through actions ranging from anti-sprawl land-use policies to urban forest restoration projects to public information campaigns;
  • Urge their state governments, and the federal government, to enact policies and programs to meet or beat the greenhouse gas emission reduction target suggested for the United States in the Kyoto Protocol -- 7% reduction from 1990 levels by 2012; and
  • Urge the U.S. Congress to pass the bipartisan greenhouse gas reduction legislation, which would establish a national emission trading system

Campus-level actionEdit

Many colleges and universities have taken steps in recent years to offset or curb their greenhouse gas emissions in relation to campus activities. On October 5, 2006, New York University announced that it plans to purchase 118 million kilowatt hours of wind power, more wind power than any college or university in the country. [13] Later in the same month, the small campus of College of the Atlantic in Maine became the first to vow to offset all of its greenhouse gas emissions by cutting GHG emissions and investing in emissions-cutting projects elsewhere. [14]

References Edit

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