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U.S. Democratic Governors to Participate in UN Climate Talks

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At least a half-dozen state governors – all Democrats – plan to attend parts of the two-week United Nations climate change conference in Glasgow, known as COP26. While states are not formally party to the talks, governors wield considerable influence over the United States’ approach to tackling climate change by setting targets for reducing carbon emissions and transitioning to renewable energy.

Take California, where Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom has pledged to stop the sale of new gasoline cars in the state by 2035, a move to speed up the country’s transition to electric vehicles. Or Washington, where Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee backed legislation requiring the state’s electricity to be carbon neutral by 2030.

“There is a lot that governors can do,” said Samantha Gross, director of the Energy Security and Climate Initiative at the Brookings Institute. “When they talk to people on the fringes and share policies and ideas and help demonstrate the commitment of the United States as a whole, they can do a lot of things.”

The expected governors are Inslee, Governor of New Mexico Michelle Lujan Grisham, Governor of Hawaii David Ige, Governor of Louisiana John Bel Edwards, Governor of Illinois JB Pritzker and Governor of Oregon Kate Brown. The six governors are part of the US Climate Alliance, an effort launched by Inslee and former governors. Jerry Brown of California and Andrew Cuomo of New York in 2017, as the Trump administration moved away from US climate targets. The alliance plans to announce new ‘ambitious’ climate commitments in Scotland, although it has not released details.

Newsom announced on Friday that he would participate virtually due to unspecified family obligations. California Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis will instead head the state delegation, which includes more than a dozen lawmakers and senior administration officials.

“All eyes will be on Glasgow, with the world asking the question, ‘What are we doing about (climate change)?’ “Said Kounalakis. “And California has answers.”

Other states that send officials include Maryland and Massachusetts, which have Republican governors.

Few American states are as influential as California, home to nearly 40 million people and would be the world’s fifth-largest economy if it were its own nation. He led the country on vehicle emissions standards, was the first state to launch a carbon pollution credits program known as cap and trade, and set some of the most ambitious goals in the country. countries in terms of emission reductions.

It is the country’s seventh-largest oil-producing state, although Newsom officials say the state has six times more jobs in clean energy than in the oil industry. Newsom has made progress in reducing demand and ultimately shutting down production, but some environmental groups say it needs to act much faster.

Several other heads of state visiting Glasgow are also coming from places that depend on oil and gas production as a key part of the economy. Lujan Grisham from New Mexico heads to the climate conference as she juggles competing pressures from environmental activists and the fossil fuel industry while running for reelection in 2022.

New Mexico is one of the major oil states. Amid rising oil production, Lujan Grisham has pushed to curb leaks and excess natural gas emissions by the industry and signed legislation that obliges and encourages New Mexico’s own transition to zero-emission electricity by 2045.

“We – as a state, nation, planet – must go further in seeking bold, equitable and just climate solutions. I look forward to this significant opportunity for global collaboration and action, ”said Lujan Grisham in a recent statement.

In March, Lujan Grisham wrote to President Joe Biden, asking to exempt New Mexico from an executive order ending production of gas and oil on federal lands. Oilfield royalties, taxes, and lease sales account for more than a quarter of the state’s general fund budget, securing spending on public schools, roads, and public safety.

Edwards of Louisiana, a state that has suffered significant flooding and hurricane damage, plans to promote his state as a hub for clean energy projects. He has set himself a goal of reducing the state’s net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050, although his administration is still developing a strategy document to achieve that goal.

“No state in our nation is more affected by climate change than Louisiana, but it is also true that no state is better placed to be part of the solution to the problems facing our world,” a- he said recently.

Governors will participate in panels through the US Climate Alliance alongside members of the Biden administration. They will also participate alongside 65 subnational governments in announcing “dozens” of new commitments on November 7.

“Governors and mayors around the world don’t think we should just rely on our federal governments,” Inslee, of Washington, said at a press conference Thursday.

It’s critical that U.S. and world leaders move from planning to implementing aggressive climate strategies, said Katelyn Sutter, senior director of U.S. climate at the Environmental Defense Fund.

“We need a policy to back up the emission reduction promises,” she said. “This is where a state like California, and now Washington and others that have momentum to move forward, can really make an impact.”

As for California, Newsom administration officials said they hope to demonstrate that tackling the climate crisis can be good for the economy and that pollution targets should be set with communities in mind. historically underserved. The administration recently proposed to ban new oil wells within 3,200 feet (975 meters) of homes, schools and hospitals, and Newsom has asked the state’s air regulator to elaborate a plan to end oil production by 2045.

“We can help push national governments to increase their ambition,” said Lauren Sanchez, Newsom’s senior climate advisor.

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This story has been corrected to say that the Republican-led states that send representatives are Maryland and Massachusetts, not Maryland and North Carolina.

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Associated Press editors Morgan Lee in Santa Fe, NM, Melinda Deslatte in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and John O’Connor in Springfield, Illinois, contributed reporting.

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