Environment 360: As Trump Retreats, States Are Stepping Up on Climate Action

October 9, 2017

Vicki Arroyo spoke with Environment 360 about state climate action and the work of the U.S. Climate Alliance. The alliance was formed in June by the governors of California, Washington, and New York, and called on other states to join them in continuing to push ahead on fighting climate change, after President Trump announced plans to withdraw from the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

In the interview, Arroyo said that even voluntary goals like Colorado’s make a difference. “Having the governor make those statements emboldens staff to really roll up their sleeves and get to work on it,” said Arroyo, who has been working with states on climate issues for years. 

Colorado — the only Rocky Mountain state in the alliance — has opted for a hybrid of mandatory and voluntary approaches. In 2014, Colorado was the first state to require the oil and gas industry to cut emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. When announcing plans to join the alliance in July, Governor John Hickenlooper signed an executive order declaring that the state would reduce greenhouse gas emissions 26 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, but he primarily outlined voluntary efforts. His initiatives include helping electric utilities install more renewable energy projects. Colorado also is working with other Western states to plot out key corridors for building electric vehicle recharging stations.

Arroyo also discussed that it is significant that states like North Carolina, which previously have not been leaders in climate action, have joined the alliance, even if they haven’t yet fleshed out plans to cut emissions. Arroyo said: “I’m impressed by how serious they are about trying to reach those goals. It obviously takes time to put actual policies in place to tell you exactly how they’re going to get there.”  

However, that is not a full substitute for federal action because states cannot force other states to clean up. “There are a lot of other states taking significant action — I’m heartened by it,” Arroyo added. “But it’s not the same as having a president who believes in climate change and wants to be a leader. It’s only a coalition of the willing that’s taking these actions.”

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