Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is in Bonn, Germany, this week for the United Nations latest conference on climate change. He’s part of a panel of local leaders talking about sub-national strategies for meeting commitments made in the Paris agreement, even after the U.S. withdrawal.
Inslee co-chairs the U.S. Climate Alliance, in which 15 governors have pledged to meet the terms of the Paris accord, through local action.
Its members want to reassure global leaders of their commitment.
“I think folks in the international community may not be aware of just how much authority actually rests within the states in the U.S.,” said Chris Davis, a senior policy advisor for climate and energy affairs for Inslee.
“U.S. states largely control the kind of power that’s on their grids; they control the fuel economy of their car fleet; they control land use and transit. Some of the biggest levers that we have to affect climate change are under the control of the states,” Davis said.
And he says states in the Alliance are using those levers to reduce emissions. Together they represent 45 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product.
Davis says many of the states with aggressive climate policies also have the strongest economies. But they may still lack partnerships that could strengthen their ability to fight climate pollution. The meetings in Bonn provide a venue for them to find each other.
“So as we go forward, the key is how do we knit together? How do we link our markets? How do we work together to incentivize the kind of investments in cleaner fuels and energy technologies that are necessary? This is the chance to meet with other leaders who are doing that and build those kinds of ties,” Davis said.
Davis says Washington is a pioneer as the first state in the nation to use a Clean Air Rule to cap carbon emissions, and he thinks other states could follow suit. Washington is also weaning itself off coal and using incentives for electric vehicles, renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Additional policies such as carbon pricing, in which emitters would have to pay to pollute, are expected to be introduced in the coming year, now that Democrats have won control of the state Senate.