In the face of an administration that is likely to be hostile to efforts aimed at combatting climate change, local governments are now leading the way. Recently in Massachusetts, a new bill has gained significant support in the state senate and house. This bill, the 100 Percent Renewable Energy Act (REA), calls for 100 percent “renewable electricity by 2035 and 100 percent renewable energy economy-wide—including electricity, heating, transportation and other sectors – by 2050.” In addition, the 100 percent REA would establish a clean energy administrative council designed to speed up the transition in the most economical way; a research center initiative at a public university in Massachusetts; and a Clean Energy Workforce Development council to identify and boost employment related to clean energy developments. Currently, the bill has over 53 cosponsors, and environmental groups are ramping up to help get it passed.
This bill represents a growing pattern of state- and city-led climate action as federal efforts seemed destined to slow down for the next four years or more. In Hawaii, House Bill 623 made Hawaii the first state to “set a 100 percent renewable portfolio standard for the electricity sector.” New York has plans to cut its greenhouse gas emissions to significantly below 1990 levels by 2030. California has similar plans to reduce its emissions and is beginning to implement a cap and trade carbon permit system in order to use market macroeconomics to reduce carbon emissions.
Many cities have taken action into their own hands as well. Seattle, Los Angeles and Columbus all voted to expand public transportation. Miami is implementing resiliency plans like raising streets and installing pumps for frequent flooding. Cities are responsible for the majority of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, so their actions can result in significant emissions reductions. Over 71 mayors sent a letter to President Trump asking for action on climate change.
Though often outspoken against climate efforts, some Republican strongholds are reducing emissions and opening up more to renewable energy. Texas leads the country in wind power generation, and Georgia, Tennessee and West Virginia have all reduced their carbon emissions over the past 15 years. Despite this, there is still widespread backlash by local governments to federal actions like the Clean Power Plan, which would hinder widespread renewable energy adoption.
Overall, the recent developments in Massachusetts represent a growing and necessary trend of more local action to combat climate change. As a climate change-skeptical administration continues to take shape, it is imperative that states and cities hold their grounds and take the necessary efforts to reduce their emissions. The longer we wait, the more devastating the consequences.