Representatives from Canada and the US came together this week, as members of the Under2 Coalition of states and regions, to voice their optimism for a year of climate action and to work together on common environmental challenges. With COP26 approaching, the pressure is on for governments at all levels to step up for a fairer, more resilient future. States and regions have a pivotal role in making this happen.
US states have shown considerable leadership on climate change in recent years, despite a difficult political backdrop and the impacts of COVID-19. This includes the announcement of zero emission vehicle roll out in California during Climate Week NYC 2020 and a commitment to 100% renewable energy in Massachusetts by 2030.
These states have now been boosted by the addition of a new member, Nevada, which has already set a net zero target for 2050 and is increasingly adopting new technology to harness green energy and build a more sustainable future.
Bradley Crowell, Director of the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, expressed Nevada’s shared excitement in joining the Under 2 Coalition:
“Climate change is a global issue that knows no borders, and the State of Nevada remains firmly committed to being part of the solution.
“Nevada is excited to join the Under2 Coalition and join forces with other state and local climate leaders as we each do our part to tackle climate change.
“Under the leadership of Governor Steve Sisolak, Nevada is accelerating its efforts to reduce all sources of greenhouse gas emissions, while also mitigating the growing impacts of climate change throughout Nevada, including wildfire threats, invasive species, and the disproportionate impacts of climate pollution on Nevada’s most disadvantaged communities. Our recently released State Climate Strategy will serve as Nevada’s roadmap for achieving our carbon reduction targets and maximizing the economic opportunities of the clean technology revolution.
“But climate action is truly a collaborative and cooperative effort. Together, with key partners like the Under2 Coalition, we are committed to doing our part to help lead the way to a more sustainable, resilient, climate-friendly future for all.”
The Under2 Coalition, a global community of state and regional governments committed to ambitious climate action in line with the Paris Agreement, now numbers more than 220 governments and represents 43% of the global economy. 17 of its state and regional members are from the US and Canada: making up 10% of the global economy.
Alongside US states such as California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York State, Rhode Island and Vermont, the Coalition’s North America contingent has five Canadian members: British Columbia, Northwest Territories, Ontario, Québec and Vancouver City. Québec has announced its intention to reach net zero emissions by 2050, whilst British Columbia adopted a Climate Change Accountability Act in 2019 to set out legal accountability for the government meeting its emissions targets.
During the meeting, Québec highlighted the urgency of a green recovery from COVID-19, particularly by making the most of new developments in renewable energy and pursuing more nature-based solutions. This was echoed by Hawaii, which has been restoring native green forests to capture water and sequestering carbon through agricultural practices. Hawaii wants to go further than net zero emissions to have negative emissions or ‘climate repair’, emphasizing that “1.5 degrees [of warming] is where Pacific Islands still exist; 2 degrees is where they don’t.”
There was also a common concern around going further on emissions reduction whilst supporting families, businesses and the wider economy. British Columbia has a strong clean technology sector already and is now keen to build up its electric vehicle infrastructure as well as finding new, sustainable ways to access climate finance. Minnesota is also focused on expanding its electric vehicle provision and improving public infrastructure, with a pledge to make all commercial and large multi-family buildings net zero by 2026.
The United States will rejoin the Paris Agreement on 19 February and announce a new Nationally Determined Contribution shortly after. President Biden will also host a Climate Summit on Earth Day – 22 April 2021. It is hoped that this new leadership will inspire further action across North America as well as the wider world.