SAN FRANCISCO – The fight against climate change is no longer a priority for the US government since Donald Trump became president in 2017, with the result that improvements in that field are now being taken over by the states, which in some cases maintain bitter disputes with Washington on the matter.
The decision that really showed which way Trump’s climate change policies were going was the announcement in June 2017 that he was withdrawing the United States from the Paris Agreement for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
Despite the condition of the agreement – signed by the government of his predecessor, Barack Obama – that the US cannot formally withdraw from it until November 2020, the current US administration has enacted policies that do in fact impede the attainment of the goals set in Paris
Organized as a national response to that decision was the US Climate Alliance, a coalition of 24 states (almost half the total number) organized for the purpose of promoting measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and achieve the goal that in 2025 the country will discharge from 26 to 28 percent less than it did in 2005.
States that have joined the alliance are practically all those that currently have a Democratic governor (Hawaii, California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Montana, Colorado, New Mexico, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Virginia, New Jersey, Delaware, New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Maine), except for two that, despite having a Democratic governor, are traditionally conservative (Kansas and Louisiana).
At the same time, three states governed by Republicans but that are traditionally progressive (Maryland, Massachusetts and Vermont) also form part of the alliance.
One of the signature measures of former President Barack Obama in the fight against climate change was to establish energy efficiency standards for cars and light trucks sold in the US, ordering that from 2025 on, they must run for at least 50 miles on a gallon of fuel (80 km per 2.78 liters).
When the Trump administration announced its intention to revoke those standards, the California government – which the law allows to set its own standards – answered by doubling down on energy efficiency in motor vehicles and set limits even stricter than Obama’s.
The Democratic-controlled California government and Trump have publicly wrangled over the matter, have taken the case to court and have divided the automobile industry, with four big manufacturers (Ford, Volkswagen, Honda and BMW) on California’s side, while Toyota, Fiat Chrysler and General Motors support the White House.
Should the dispute not be resolved, this could lead to a divided national market, in which the same vehicle cannot be sold everywhere in the country, since 12 other states follow the standards set by California.
Perhaps the most ambitious goal set by a state in the fight against climate change over the past few years is that of California, specifically with regard to its plan to use 100 percent clean energy on its electrical grid by the year 2045, enacted by the state Congress late last year.
California obtained 29 percent of its electricity last year from renewable sources, which practically tripled the amount in 2007, thanks largely to an industry leaning more and more toward solar, wind and geothermal energy.