The recent months have been characterized by a heated debate over President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the landmark 2015 global agreement to fight climate change (COP 21). The United States, which accounts for nearly 18 percent of total worldwide greenhouse gas emissions, second only to China whose share is just above 20 percent, had committed to reduce emissions by 26 to 28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025.
While the political impact of such decision has certainly been large, as the agreement was signed by 195 countries, with Syria and Nicaragua being the only non-participants in the accord, the real impact on emission control measures in the United States may be somewhat limited. In fact, the United States is already about halfway to its 2025 emissions reduction target, and of the remaining reductions, only a part could be affected by the federal government through national regulations. In fact, the bulk of the decisions which drive United States climate action in the aggregate are made by cities, states, businesses, and civil society, actors that have declared will remain committed to the Paris accord.
Cities and states can reduce emissions in many ways, including negotiating contracts with local utilities to supply greater amounts of renewable energy, building rapid transit programs and other infrastructure projects. Washington, for example, has adopted a cap on carbon pollution, has invested in growing clean energy jobs and subsidizes electrical vehicle purchases and charging stations. The mayor of Salt Lake City said her administration had recently brokered an agreement with the local utility to power the city with 100 percent renewable energy by 2032. Moreover, several US states are making headway on the path for renewable energy, as their political leaders see tapping the wind, and to a lesser degree the sun, as an economic strategy. The clean energy push allows their utilities to lock in low power prices for decades, creates manufacturing jobs, brings money to the farmers who host wind turbines and attracts investments from large companies that want renewable power. Turbines now supply almost 6 percent of the United States electricity, and studies suggest they could eventually supply a third or more.
Similarly, corporations can contribute to lowering emissions, by for instance buying renewable energy for their offices and factories, or making sure their supply chains are climate-friendly. Several US business leaders strongly believe the Paris deal will help generate new jobs and economic growth, by expanding markets for innovative clean technologies, markets in which US companies are well positioned to lead, and publicly committed to continue on their strategy to invest in measure aimed at reducing emissions of greenhouse gases.
On a global scale, the feared domino effect following US withdrawal from the Paris agreement, did not happen and all major world’s political leaders restated their commitment to full implementation of the agreement, confirming their full support to fighting climate change.
Our industry needs to understand the technical challenges that the continued strive towards emission control and renewable energy will pose and further focus on performance and sustainability. Sustainability and innovation will be the focus of the UEIL yearly congress on October 25-27 2017 in Bologna, which will offer an excellent occasion to discuss how our industry can be innovative and forward looking.