President Trump’s announcement that the U.S. will withdraw from the Paris climate accord has catalyzed the already strong transition to renewable energy and commitments to reduce carbon emissions.
“Right now, we have not heard of anyone backing off” because of Trump’s announcement on the Paris agreement, says Block Andrews, who leads federal policy for Burns & McDonnell’s generation group. Since Trump announced on June 1 that the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, there has been widespread evidence of a reluctance to follow the White House. California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) met with China to recommit to the goals of the agreement, Hawaii passed a law aligning the state’s goals with those of the Paris accord, and New York state issued a request for proposals for 2.5-million megawatt-hours of renewable energy for the state.
“U.S. withdrawal from the Paris agreement and associated announcements make it apparent that individual states may now be providing more of the regulatory drivers and incentives for continued build-out of renewables and associated transmission lines,” says Andy Byers, associate vice president of Black & Veatch’s energy business.
More than 12 states, including California, Minnesota and New York and representing almost 20% of the nation’s carbon dioxide emissions, have formed a climate alliance that pledges to meet the Paris agreement. Mayors in 211 cities and 1,219 public officials, educational institutions and businesses signed a similar “We Are Still In” pledge.
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who also serves as the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change, met with French President Emmanuel Macron on June 2 and told him Americans will not let “Washington stand in the way of fulfilling” the agreement.
While the response has been enthusiastic, it is not clear whether the different groups and governments can meet the U.S. goal of reducing its greenhouse-gas emissions 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2025, says Bob Perciasepe, president of the nonprofit Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. “What we have right now is tons of willingness,” Perciasepe says. “What we need to do now is really figure out in detail what exactly is achievable.”
While studies show the U.S. could reach between 60% and 80% of the Paris goal outside of federal policy and is on track to do so, that could fall with rollbacks of regulations and incentives.
The Trump administration’s plan to rescind the Clean Power Plan is expected to be released by the end of the summer. Further, an Energy Dept. study expected this month on the electric grid could “make other forms of energy besides renewable look more favorable from a market perspective,” Andrews says.
“We always need the federal government to help,” says Perciasepe. “They establish an economy-wide framework. Does that mean we can’t do anything without them? That’s the question.”