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Brookings Report Measures 100 U.S. Cities' Adherence to Climate Action Pledges

A comprehensive review of the 100 largest cities in the United States shows which mayors have followed up on pledges to cut carbon emissions.
October 27, 2020, 9am PDT | Lee Flannery | @leecflannery
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Claudia Otte

In recent years, more than ever, municipalities and state governments have pledged to take action against climate change and reduce greenhouse emissions in their jurisdictions. 

"Since 1991, over 600 local governments in the United States have developed climate action plans that include greenhouse gas inventories and reduction targets, reflecting growing public concern about the consequences of a warmer planet. Recently, this local action has been accelerating. But despite numerous studies, we still don’t know if all this effort is working," writes Mark Muro. 

Brookings Institution researchers explored local actions to reduce emissions and which of the nation's 100 largest cities are walking the walk when it comes to addressing climate change. 

"About two-thirds of cities with climate pledges are currently lagging in their targeted emissions cuts, while 13 others don’t appear to have available emissions tracking in place," Muro reports. 

Even partial adherence to climate pledges has eliminated about 365 million metric tons of carbon pollution according to Muro. Still, it's unrealistic to believe that meeting long-term goals related to climate change will be achieved without a robust and diligent review and assessment on a national scale. 

If the United States reenters the Paris Climate Agreement, the burden still rests with individual cities. "[D]iplomacy won’t matter much if the rest of the world doesn’t believe our promises will stick and doesn’t see climate action in areas that have resisted thus far. The solution to this problem isn’t more diplomacy, but more mayors making (and delivering on) compelling emission reductions pledges," as Muro puts it.

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Published on Thursday, October 22, 2020 in Brookings
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