Climate Action Without the Feds?

  • By Elena Renken & Ari Daniel
  • Posted 11.30.17
  • NOVA

Can states, cities, and companies do enough on their own to fulfill U.S. obligations to the Paris Accord?

Running Time: 02:47


Climate Action Without the Feds?

Published November 30, 2017

Onscreen: Paris, December 2015: 196 countries reach consensus, adopting an agreement to reduce carbon emissions to fight climate change. Washington, D.C., June 2017:

Donald Trump: It is time to exit the Paris Accord.

Onscreen: Without being in the Paris Agreement, could the US still meet the 2025 target? Namely, to cut roughly a quarter of 2005 emissions? The US has already moved closer to this target. But a gap remains, a gap almost the size of Texas' annual emissions.

Ashley Lawson: The atmosphere doesn't care where these emissions come from.

Onscreen: It'd take a dramatic energy cut in any one sector to hit the 2025 target.

Lawson: You can get it by electrifying every single car, truck, and van in the United States. You can get there by cutting the energy consumption of all buildings in half. You can get there by taking every single coal-fired power plant and replacing it with an energy source that doesn't emit CO2.

Onscreen: Altering any of these sectors completely by 2025 is unrealistic. So a combo would be necessary. Some communities are responding. Nine states have pledged: "We Are Still In." To get the US to hit its target all by themselves, these states would have to cut emissions by almost three quarters. That's unlikely.

Christiana Figueres: But we have cities, corporations, investors saying that they will continue to decarbonize portfolios.

Onscreen: For instance, California is mandating a drop in greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. And a further 80% reduction by 2050. By 2025, NYC wants 20% of new car registrations to be electric vehicles. To do so, Mayor de Blasio plans to develop fast charging hubs in every borough. Walmart has launched Project Gigaton to get its suppliers to remove 1 billion tons of emissions by 2030. But there's still a long way to go.

Kevin Kennedy: It's unlikely that states and cities stepping up to the plate will be sufficient to meet the target. Consistent federal action is going to be needed almost certainly to reach the 2025 goal. It's not completely a lost cause. But it will be much, much more difficult than it would have been.

Onscreen: In sum, if this circle represents the 2025 target, here's how far US   commitments are predicted to take us. So we might hit the target, but it's a long shot.



Elena Renken & Ari Daniel
Editorial Review
Tim De Chant & Julia Cort
© WGBH Educational Foundation 2017


Visuals & Videography
Adobe Stock
Ari Daniel
Google Earth


(main image: US map)
Adobe Stock/© WGBH Educational Foundation 2017

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