How Local Governments Are Addressing Climate Change

Reader Contribution by Kayla Matthews
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Back in June of last year, President Trump announced he would withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord, the agreement among most of the world’s countries aiming to limit the rise in global temperatures.

Since the U.S. is now the only country in the world that is not part of the signature pact, that announcement may have been the Trump administration’s most headline-grabbing move related to climate change, but it’s just one of many aimed at limiting the federal government’s role in the matter.

However, while our federal government may be removing itself from having any role in addressing climate change, the good news is that local governments have stepped up in its place to fight the rise in global temperatures. According to a recent report commissioned by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the U.S. is still on course to meet its greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, due in large part to the actions cities and states have taken.

If the more than 3,000 city, state and business leaders who have made pledges to cut carbon emissions fulfill them, U.S. emissions will decrease to 17 percent less than 2005 levels by 2025, according to the report. The report measures the impact of America’s Pledge, a plan by California Gov. Jerry Brown and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg that supports cities, states and other entities in making commitments in line with the Paris accord.

The report came out around the same time about 4,500 representatives from city governments, regional governments and research institutions met in California for the Global Climate Action Summit. The meeting aimed to speed up efforts to prevent global temperature rise.

Local governments from around the world are also collaborating through ICLEI — Local Governments for Sustainability, a network of more than 1,500 cities, towns and regions dedicated to sustainability. Participants in the ICLEI network work with experts in 22 offices in 124 countries on sustainable development initiatives.

What Are U.S. Cities Doing?

Local and tribal governments across the U.S. are taking steps to address climate change through many different types of initiatives. Here are a few examples of these plans.


Boston first released its Climate Action Plan in 2007, but the city updates it every three years. It includes a roadmap to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020 and becoming carbon-neutral by 2050. The plan also includes steps to prepare Boston for the impacts of climate change and efforts to make Boston a zero-waste city.

New York City

In 2017, New York City released a plan called “1.5° C: Aligning New York City With the Paris Climate Agreement” that outlines actions the city will take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in alignment with the goals of the Paris agreement. All the efforts the plan outlines have the potential to eliminate 10 million metric tons of CO2 emissions by 2030, according to the city.


Seattle first adopted its Climate Action Plan in 2013, but in April of this year, the city released a new, more ambitious strategy that aims to make the city carbon-neutral. The plan includes 12 initiatives involving transportation, buildings and carbon pricing. These actions include a congestion pricing program and creating and deploying an electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

Los Angeles

Los Angeles released its Sustainable City pLAn in 2015. The city aims to reduce community-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent from a 1990 baseline by 2025, 60 percent by 2035 and 80 percent by 2050. As of 2017, LA has the most installed solar panels and the largest electric vehicle fleet of any U.S. city.

These four cities are leading the charge on addressing climate change, but many more cities — as well as states, tribal governments, businesses and nonprofits — are stepping up and making significant changes as well. The federal government may have turned away from the issue, but local governments have intensified their efforts in response.

Kayla Matthews writes and blogs about healthy living and has an especially strong passion for helping others increase their mental health and happiness by improving their daily productivity and positivity. Connect with Kayla on Google+Facebook and Twitter and check out her most recent posts on Productivity Theory. Read all of Kayla’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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