As our political leaders work on an international climate deal, they are being pushed forward by a whole host of smaller entities who are able, and willing, to cut emissions harder and faster than national governments may be able to do right now. From most of Britain's major cities pledging 100% clean energy (not just electricity!) by 2050 to Unilever going 'carbon positive', these pledges tend to be marked by bigger, bolder goals than their national counterparts—not to mention tighter, more ambitious timeframes.
The latest example of this, reported over at Business Green, is a coalition of states and regional governments who have pledged to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by 12.4 gigatons of CO2 equivalent by 2030, more than China's entire annual emissions in 2012.
That is a huge deal.Not only is the sheer size of emissions cuts significant (China is, after all, the largest overall emitter on the planet), but the fact that these pledges are being made by regional governments helps to bolster any climate deal from potential uncertainty caused by changes in national government. Just as Britain's Labour dominated city councils supporting 100% clean energy provides a hedge against real or perceived backsliding by the country's current Conservative government, the fact that California and New York are both signed up to the above pledge will give policy makers confidence that progress will continue in the United States—even if the next president is hostile to decarbonization.
When considered in conjunction with the huge number of corporations pledging significant climate action (and supporting a strong climate deal), it becomes harder and harder to envision a world where we go back to business as usual.
None of this means that a low carbon economy is inevitable, or that an international deal doesn't matter, but it does provide one more proof point regarding which way our economy is headed. Those who are still dragging their feet or obstructing progress would be wise to pay attention.