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12 States, Provinces Driving Nations to Keep Temperature Rise Below 2 Degrees Celsius

Last week, California governor Jerry Brown signed an international agreement with 11 other state and province leaders, collectively representing more than 100 million people, to keep the global average temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius.

Under 2 MOU is a subnational agreement designed to lead nations towards a legally binding global agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions ahead of this year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris this December.

“This global challenge requires bold action on the part of governments everywhere,” Governor Brown said at the signing ceremony in Sacramento. “It’s time to be decisive. It’s time to act.”

The Under 2 MOU agreement affords signatories 35 years to either reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 to 95 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 or achieve a per capita annual emission target of less than two metric tons by 2050. These targets allow each individual government to tailor emission reduction plans to fit regional needs while cooperating with other signatories.

The 12 founding signatories span seven countries on three continents: California, Oregon, Washington and Vermont; Canadian provinces British Columbia and Ontario; Mexican states Baja California and Jalisco; the Brazilian state of Acre; and in Europe, Baden-Württemberg, Germany; Catalonia, Spain; and Wales, UK. Their collective GDP amounts to $4.5 trillion, representing the fourth-largest economic entity in the world.

The agreement creates a continuous area of climate cooperation that stretches along the West Coast of North America from British Columbia, Canada south through Baja California, Mexico – a distance of roughly 5,500 kilometers (3420 miles).

“Building on the success of BC’s climate actions to date, which include a revenue-neutral carbon tax and support for our growing cleantech sector, a recently appointed BC Climate Leadership Team will be engaging British Columbians to develop new climate actions that continue to reduce emissions while continuing to support development and a growing economy,” said British Columbia Premier Christy Clark.

As part of the GHG emission-reduction effort, signatories agreed on collaboration to expand the use of zero-emission vehicles. They will share technology, research and best practices for energy efficiency and renewables; ensure consistent monitoring and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions; reduce short-lived climate pollutants such as black carbon and methane; and assess the projected impacts of climate change on communities.

“The Under 2 MOU is an historical opportunity to share our common efforts towards sustainability,” said Acre Governor Tião Viana. “The state of Acre reaffirms its determination to pursue its sustainable production goals, enhance social inclusion and promote the conservation of forests.”

Under 2 MOU signatories have also committed to recruiting more global partners ahead of the COP21 in Paris. To that end, California Air Resources Board chair Mary Nichols hosted a reception with European partners last week at the Business and Climate Summit in Paris organized by the French chapters of the United Nations Global Compact. Other governments have shown interest in signing onto the agreement.

“The commitments taken today are an important step of the mobilization of non-state actors towards COP21, and I am glad to be part of it,” said Rhône-Alpes Regional Council president Jean-Jack Queyranne. The Rhône-Alpes Region will sign the Under 2 MOU during the World Summit Climate and Territories, set for Lyon, France, on July 1-2, where a host of subnational governments and all international networks represented in the UN Major Groups will present their commitments and proposals for COP21.

“Local and sub-national governments are critical innovators in the fight against climate change,” said World Bank Group Vice President and Special Envoy for Climate Change Rachel Kyte. “Their proven track record of building up solutions – from carbon pricing to electric vehicle roll-out to green buildings – provides an excellent model for national governments to follow as they advance plans for an ambitious Paris Agreement.”

California’s commitment to the Under 2 MOU follows several other climate-conscious actions taken in the state so far this year. Last month, Governor Brown signed an executive order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in California 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 – the most ambitious target in North America. The Under 2 MOU is consistent with California’s existing commitment to reduce emissions 80 percent under 1990 levels by 2050. Additionally, earlier this year Governor Brown announced that by 2030, California will reduce petroleum use in cars and trucks by up to 50 percent, increase renewable power from one-third to 50 percent by 2030, double efficiency savings from existing buildings and make heating fuels cleaner. California also currently has existing international climate change pacts with leaders from Mexico, China, North America, Japan, Israel and Peru.

There have been a number of efforts ahead of December’s COP21 urging countries to make an ambitious climate change agreement. In April, 40 CEOs signed an open letter to leaders attending the Paris Conference, and Unilever partnered with Live Earth: Road to Paris and Global Citizen to activate consumer engagement.