COP25 attendees surrounding the hall where Accelerating America's Pledge is being unveiled.

The Path to Meeting Paris Targets for the United States

An overflow crowd assembled today at the Climate Action Center at the IFEMA event hall in Madrid, where the COP25 climate conference is being held. From across the enormous conference center, people came to hear the news that even as the US federal government plans to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, states, cities, businesses, and other American organizations and individuals are still in—and can make a big dent in emissions.

The excitement in the crowd was reinforced by a keynote address from Harrison Ford, who has built upon his career as an actor by becoming an outspoken environmentalist. “Like many of you here today, I have felt despair at the state of the world, for our future,” began Ford. He went on to note the important role that bottom-up leadership is providing.

“In 2017 my country’s federal government demonstrated a lack of courage, threatening to pull out of the Paris Agreement. But city and state governments, and other elements of civil society, committed themselves to achieving the goals of Paris. They accepted the responsibility that our federal government was determined to avoid.”

Ford and other speakers presented the report Accelerating America’s Pledge, written by a team led by Rocky Mountain Institute and the University of Maryland. This report finds that accelerated commitments by “non-federal” actors in the United States—states, cities, businesses, and others—could result in 37 percent emissions reductions against a 2005 baseline level by 2030.

However, a central message of the report is that local action does not remove the need for federal leadership, and instead both are needed. Of the three scenarios modeled in Accelerating America’s Pledge, only the one that combines federal and local action gets the United States to a level of emissions reductions—49 percent by 2030—consistent with keeping global average warming below 1.5° Celsius.

And as Ford emphasized, what is needed now is more action. “People are scared, angry, and they have a right to be,” noted Ford. “We are not here to debate the facts. We know the facts. What we need now is the courage to act.”

A more detailed exploration of the report and its findings can be read in Energy Transition Magazine.