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States step up to the climate challenge in midst of international climate talks

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(Editor's note: Lucky us — we have a Hoosier correspondent in Paris for the climate change talks that are now underway. Lauren Kastner is on the Board of Directors of Earth Charter Indiana in 2015 and is a national youth leader with the Sierra Student Coalition.)


While all eyes are on commitments that nations are making to address climate change at the high-stakes talks in Paris, cities and sub-national groups globally are also leading where countries have fallen short.


Today in Paris, United States Governors Jerry Brown of California, Jay Inslee of Washington and Peter Shumlin of Vermont signed a memorandum of understanding with the French Embassy to the United States committing to state climate leadership.

United States Governors Jerry Brown of California, Jay Inslee of Washington and Peter Shumlin of Vermont signed a memorandum of understanding with the French Embassy to the United States committing to state climate leadership. - PHOTO BY LAUREN KASTNER
  • Photo by Lauren Kastner
  • United States Governors Jerry Brown of California, Jay Inslee of Washington and Peter Shumlin of Vermont signed a memorandum of understanding with the French Embassy to the United States committing to state climate leadership.


Individual states cannot independently decide foreign policy, yet their influence in shaping the narrative at home in the U.S. and here in Paris is critical to building ambition for delivering a strong climate deal. Once a climate deal is reached here in Paris, the U.S. Department of State has to bring it home and sell it to the American people. With local and state leaders like the governors here this week, that task will be much easier.


“There is hope coming from the states,” said Governor Shumlin in his remarks. “We are joining the race against the clock which we all know is ticking more loudly each day. States are making a difference despite Congress to not only use less resources but to collaborate with our neighbors to get it right.”


Earlier this year, the U.S. pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. As I’ve written before, it will take every current domestic environmental regulation to go through as planned to meet this target. This includes emissions reductions through the Clean Power Plan for coal-fired power generation, standards for heavy-duty engines and vehicles, energy efficiency standards, and a whole lot of other things the federal government has yet to rollout. How states choose to meet these targets will be essential to upholding the U.S.’s commitments in a climate deal.


Meeting these emissions targets will not be without challenges, but as Governor Brown noted, there are tremendous opportunities for states who choose to get out in front of climate change and lead.


“We’re sailing into adverse winds and some folks from the business community say we can’t do what we’re doing,” said Governor Brown. “In California we know that regulation inspires innovation.”


The signing ceremony with these governors was more goodwill than anything, but it should make residents of other states especially Indiana take notice. If these governors can see the vast opportunities of climate leadership at the state level, when will ours?

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