19 September 2017

US Governors pledge to work with the international community on climate change

US Governors are reported to have a more visible than usual activity during this year’s United Nations General Assembly, taking place this week in New York City, aiming to persuade the international community that States will keep their commitment to the Paris goals.

Jerry Brown, the Governor of California, held a meeting on Sunday with state leaders from Europe, Brazil and Small-Islands States on the sidelines of United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

The New York Times reports that he also met with António Guterres, the United Nations Secretary General, to discuss the future of the Paris Agreement.

Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington, will meet with Frank Bainimarama, the Prime Minister of Fiji, which holds the presidency of COP23 this year.

Analysts suggest that this is the first time that Governors have adopted such an active role on the UNGA, and it is expected to be a first test of whether Governors can actually persuade world leaders that US States might be able to replace, at least in part, action from the Federal Government.

Reportedly, Democratic State Governors are set to take increased responsibility and uptake a more visible role on the international climate talks, forming an informal negotiating team.

Governor Inslee aims to tell world leaders this week: “You have allies in the United States. You shouldn’t put your foot on the brake or even tap it just because we have a climate denier in the White House. You’re not alone”.

He also replied to comments that claimed that Governors represent a shadow diplomatic corps, saying: “I don’t think it’s a shadow”.

“We’re in the sunlight. We’re shining the bright light of success”.

Governor Brown said that since “we don’t have someone from Washington D.C., the States are picking up the baton”.

As reported by New York Times, Roy Cooper, Governor of North Carolina was expected to announce that North Carolina will join the fifteen states that have formed the United States Climate Alliance group, - states, cities and territories that have pledged to keep up with the Paris Agreement goals.

If North Carolina does join the movement, it will be a big announcement, as it constitutes one of the highest-emitting states.

According to the pledges made by the Obama administration, the US should reduce at least by 26 percent its emissions by 2025, with 2005 being the baseline year.

Thus, each Governor aims to set up individual policies aiming that goal.

David Ige, Governor of Hawaii said: “We certainly believe that if the federal government won’t lead in this area, we want the world to understand there are states across the country that are committed”.

On the opposite side, David G. Victor,p Professor of International Relations at the University of California, San Diego warned that “Unless their leadership is met with followership, the impact will be pretty limited”.

“The idea has always been that if these states can demonstrate the technologies needed to cut emissions, that will help shift the politics in other states. But we have yet to see that play out”.

In addition, Nicolas Loris, a Research Fellow in Energy and Environmental Policy at the Heritage Foundation, warned about the fact that Governors are speaking to the minority of Americans, as in 2015 half of US States were opposed to President’s Obama Clean Power Plan. 

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