The 2020 US election is not just about the next four years of US policy, this election will also determine the role of the United States in the Climate Decade. As one of the biggest polluters in the world, eliminating emissions in the US is paramount to alter the course of the climate crisis.
Following the 2016 election, it was clear that the US would regress on climate at the federal level. President Trump ran on a platform to invigorate the fossil fuel industry and clear away protections against dangerous pollution and extraction. After nearly four years, the administration has also rolled back 99 climate policies and clean air and water protection, and is on track to remove even more.
The Trump Administration also moved to withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement, under which the US committed to cutting greenhouse gases 25-28% by 2025 based on 2005 levels. According to the Agreement’s exit procedure, US withdrawal formally goes into effect tomorrow, November 4. If the President is re-elected, the US will be the only country sitting on the sidelines of the most important international agreement affecting the future of the global economy, and health and safety of its people. With China’s recent 2060 net-zero commitment, and 2050 net-zero commitments by the EU, Japan and South Korea, withdrawing from Paris will isolate the U.S. further and threaten its global competitiveness in the race for low carbon businesses and innovations.
In an effort to counteract the lack of federal leadership, states and businesses stepped up on climate, issuing numerous new laws and targets and proving that their collective impact can still move us in the right direction. From raising ambition on zero emission vehicle rollout to advancing a 100% renewable future by 2030, states like California, New York, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts are implementing climate policies to build back greener post-pandemic. At Climate Week NYC 2020, businesses made and improved critical climate commitments: Walmart, the world’s largest retail company, committed to be 100% carbon neutral across their global operations by 2040 at our Opening Ceremony, and Facebook announced net-zero goals.
Amy Davidsen, Executive Director of North America at the Climate Group, says:
“States and businesses are now central to the fight against climate change. Climate impacts are coming faster than ever as seen by the recent wildfires in the west and hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico. Science tells us we need to move with much greater urgency – to cut global emissions in half by the end of the decade if we are to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change.
Despite the detrimental absence of federal leadership over the last four years, more state governments and businesses stepped forward to drive innovation, investments, and policies to reduce harmful emissions and begin the critical shift toward a clean energy economy. We hope that the next administration will follow their example and rejoin the Paris Agreement as a global leader. The US must commit to net-zero emissions no later than 2050 and work closely with other countries to create a safe and prosperous future for all.”
With the future of federal climate leadership uncertain, business and state action may offer the only viable avenues for climate leadership and diplomacy. But, while states and businesses are crucial to addressing the climate crisis, federal support is still necessary. The outcome of this election will determine whether the US will become a beacon of leadership and act to protect the planet for generations to come.