While the Trump administration is clearly steadfast in dismantling environmental regulations that combat climate change, cities and states throughout the country have been picking up the slack. In June 2017, President Trump stated the US would pull out of the Paris Agreement. This galvanized many states and cities to action, many vowing to remain in the Paris Agreement and to develop climate action plans despite the lack in federal leadership. Currently, 25 of the 50 largest cities in the United State have climate action plans. According to Climate Action Tracker as of September 19, 2019, 22 states, 550 cities and 900 companies in the US have made climate commitments. Carbon offset purchasing programs are one of the tools included in their plans to mitigate climate change, alongside supply chain emissions reductions strategies and the implementation of green technologies to reduce emissions.
An important recent development to watch is New York City’s passage of the Climate Mobilization Act which seeks to reduce emissions from its building sector. The Act requires landlords with properties over 25,000 square feet to reduce emissions by 40% below 2005 levels by 2030 and 80% by 2050. Ten percent of these reductions can come from carbon offsets. This could represent a significant opportunity for carbon offset markets, by increasing demand. In addition, the organization C40Cities, along with the NYC Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, released a document in April 2019 outlining carbon credit best practices for cities that can be adopted worldwide.
How does all of this impact the national carbon budget? The Climate Action tracker predicts that if all of the Trump administration’s deregulations are successful, greenhouse gas emissions in the United States could increase by 400 MtCO2e over initial projections for the year 2030. Contrast that with their prediction that, if all state and local climate action plans are implemented, the United States could reduce emissions 17-24% below 2005 levels by 2025, as long as all the above deregulations do not occur. It is clear from the data that states, and cities have the potential to play a major role in helping the world meet its climate change goals. In the absence of federal leadership, we’ll need more of them to step up and make good on their commitments. One of the most effective tools we have in meeting those commitments is carbon offsets.