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UN Urges Business, Cities, Sub-Nationals to Step Up as U.S. Climate Commitment Fades

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Businesses, cities, and sub-national governments must keep up the momentum for greenhouse gas reductions in jurisdictions where national leadership is flagging, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged last week, in a statement that made no direct mention of the United States but acknowledged that some countries are backsliding in their commitments to implement the landmark Paris agreement.

“Even if some national governments backtrack in commitments, the combined impacts of sub-national authorities, businesses, and civil society will create an unstoppable momentum,” the former Portuguese prime minister told a meeting on climate change and sustainable development.

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“All signatories should stick to [Paris] instead of walking away,” added China’s UN Ambassador Liu Jieyi. “Regardless of the changes in the international landscape, China remains committed and will respond to climate change.”

The session at UN headquarters in New York “drew delegates, environmental groups, and state and local leaders from around the world,” Bloomberg reports. “Washington State Governor Jay Inslee, a Democrat, said his state was moving forward to close coal plants and cut emissions, despite Trump’s vow to increase fossil fuel use.”

“Our progress in Washington State is not going be stopped by anyone at any time,” he told a panel session. “You can count on the state of Washington to move forward.”

But there is still growing concern that the U.S. will fall short of its Paris targets as Trump prepares to follow through on his threat to gut President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan and withdraw from the country’s international climate commitments. In contrast to early post-election speculation that the U.S. already had enough momentum to reduce its emissions 26-28% from 2005 levels by 2025, regardless of Trump’s actions, a new program-by-program analysis [2] by InsideClimate News puts the country well short of that goal.

The nation is a third of the way to [the] target, but the rest was to be achieved via an array of regulations, especially the Clean Power Plan, that are now targeted for elimination,” ICN reports. “Not only was the goal dependent on those rules, it would have also required even more rigorous policies from Obama’s successor, because reductions from those rules would not have been enough,” bringing the country in 17% shy of its Paris commitment.

In addition to the Clean Power Plan, ICN lists hydrofluorocarbon and methane controls, building and appliance efficiency, California carbon policies, and emission controls for heavy trucks as key elements of the emission reduction strategy, many of which are threatened by the Trump White House.