A number of political figures and businesses around the US have committed to meeting the Paris Accord greenhouse gas targets, despite the withdrawal of the Trump administration from the agreement. This is part of a growing movement of statements and actions in support of the Paris climate agreement.
One of the most vocal figures making commitments to meet emissions goals is former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg. He made a bold statement published in The Guardian in support of the agreement on behalf of eco-conscious American politicians, businesses, and citizens:
“The US will meet our Paris commitment and through a partnership among [American] cities, states, and businesses, we will seek to remain part of the Paris Agreement process. The American government may have pulled out of the agreement, but the American people remain committed to it – and we will meet our targets.”
The question is, does this coalition of concerned Americans have the resources to meet Paris targets without the official support of Washington?
The answer might lean more toward yes than you’d imagine.
Job creation has been a hot-button political topic. Amid the promises of bringing jobs back to the coal industry, the job-creation potential of renewable energy has been largely ignored on the political stage.
Part of this is due to the somewhat invisible rippling effect that renewable energy technologies have on other industries. For example, wind turbines are governed by strict noise regulations and need to be checked by acoustic engineers, as well as service technicians. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the manufacturing and placement of turbines creates employment from field scientists, to administrators, to manufacturers and construction laborers.
Similarly, solar power has a positive effect on a number of manufacturing industries. The North American market for glass is mature and ready for the additional demand of solar power. According to CMS North America: “Mature markets [in the glass industry], such as Europe and North America, are expected to benefit from new energy policies for buildings and laminated glazing.” They note an emerging energy market that will drive demand, and that there is a correlation between a mature glass market and economic stability.
This sort of demand drives employment not just in glass production, but in the complicated transport and storage associated with it.
Coalition of citizens
Bloomberg has been very successful in creating a large coalition of concerned American citizens, intending to demonstrate that the Paris accord is still the will of the people. The group has seen bipartisan membership from almost 250 mayors and three state governors, as well as a number of universities and over 100 American businesses.
Currently, the group is seeking recognition alongside countries in the Paris accord, but it could prove to be complicated. Christiana Figueres, a former top United Nations climate official is quoted in The New York Times as saying “there was currently no formal mechanism for entities that were not countries to be full parties to the Paris Accord.”
Nevertheless, this demonstration of political and industry support for the global effort to cut down on emissions is a powerful message. It could go a long way to convincing the UN that America remains committed to the accord in spirit, if not in policy.
Can it be done without Washington?
A national movement toward the Paris targets would most likely require legislative support at the federal level. Regulation and political pressure to conform to efficiency and environmental standards would be needed to bring companies that haven’t signed on to the pledge into the fold.
On the other hand, a ground-up movement, starting at the municipal level might convince just enough American corporations that the market would respond favorably to a green, socially responsible commitment. After all, it isn’t just political figures coming out in support of a greener energy infrastructure. Celebrities like William Shatner have also been making green energy commitments.
As the technology associated with renewable energy improves — such as development in photovoltaic cells that make solar panels cheaper to produce — its adoption is becoming more economically sound for businesses as well as individuals.
We may find that a trend toward renewable energy doesn’t require legislative imperative, as businesses respond to the wishes and needs of consumers. But it will still likely require legislative support, a challenge that will haunt Bloomberg’s group as long as the current administration’s international and energy policies remain the same.
For background on the Paris Climate Agreement see COP21: A green light for the solar industry.
Written by Benjamin Steele, a freelance writer focusing on clean energy