‘Mission impossible’ for US cities that want to respect Paris climate deal

As the impacts of climate change become more severe, cities across the world are taking steps to reduce their carbon emissions and meet the goals of the Paris climate agreement. However, for many cities in the US, including Philadelphia, achieving these goals seems like a mission impossible.

Here are some key takeaways:

  • US cities struggle to meet Paris climate goals
  • Clean energy grid needed to achieve goals
  • City-company goals clash, policy collaboration needed

Although cities like Philadelphia have made significant progress in reducing their carbon footprint, their actions represent just a small drop in the bucket compared to the vast amounts of carbon emissions they produce. For instance, in Philadelphia, 85 percent of residents heat their homes with natural gas, a fossil fuel that is abundant in the rocks beneath Pennsylvania, and more than half of the electricity the city consumes each day is produced by oil- and coal-powered power plants.

The need for collaboration between policymakers and stakeholders

Given the scale of the problem, Christine Knapp, director of the office of sustainability for the city of Philadelphia, believes that achieving the Paris climate agreement goals can’t be done by cities and states alone. Rather, she argues that a completely clean, carbon-free grid is needed to meet these goals, and someone higher up needs to set the policy for that to happen.

Local engagement increases in response to Trump’s anti-climate actions

Despite these challenges, cities like Philadelphia are not giving up on their efforts to tackle climate change. In fact, Philadelphia is among some 2,700 cities, states, and businesses that declared “We Are Still In” when it comes to the Paris accord, emphasizing progress such as how carbon dioxide emissions fell in 2017 to their lowest point in 25 years, and how gigawatts of solar and wind energy have been installed as coal use declines.

However, the clashing of goals between city officials and companies, such as the local gas company PGW, is making it harder for cities to achieve their climate goals. While the mayor of Philadelphia imagines a future without gas, PGW defends its future as the cleanest, least polluting of all the fossil fuels. This conflict highlights the need for policymakers at all levels to collaborate with stakeholders to develop comprehensive plans that align with the Paris climate agreement goals.

Ultimately, the silver lining of Trump’s anti-climate actions is that it has shocked local actors and businesses into increasing their own engagement and showing the rest of the world that the US is not completely insane. While cities like Philadelphia face significant challenges in achieving their climate goals, their efforts to reduce their carbon footprint are inspiring others to take action and making a positive impact on the planet.

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