UNITED NATIONS — The European Union set an ambitious target on Wednesday of achieving “climate neutrality” by 2050, meaning the continent would be pulling more carbon out of the atmosphere than it produces.
That vision stands in sharp contrast with statements by President Donald Trump, who criticized a recent U.S. government report on the economic costs of ignoring climate change and told CNN he doesn’t believe humans play a role in global warming.
But many U.S. states are actually keeping pace with Europe, says Chris Bataille, a researcher at the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations in Paris.
“Washington, Oregon, California, the New England states, they’ve got really aggressive policies that are on track. Texas — people don’t see it as a climate leader — but it has some of the most wind power in the world. So there’s a lot to cheer for. It’s just a matter of breaking some of the policy logjams.”
Jane Long, a senior fellow at the California Council on Science and Technology, is encouraged by the efforts at the state level and in the private sector, but says Washington can’t be fully ignored.
“Some of it will happen because of economics, but getting to 80 percent or beyond, you’ll have to have policy. Because basically you’re going to have to plan and insure that you have a reliable energy system that works.”
Whether American policymakers can agree to do that is another question. While a recent survey found a vast majority of Europeans feel climate change action would be good for business, an opposite view predominates in the U.S., where climate change is a uniquely partisan issue.
Long doesn’t think that has to be the case, and says if the U.S. — and the world, for that matter — hope to zero out carbon emissions, some of the fossil fuel companies at the center of the climate debate will have a role to play.
“To the extent that we have to put carbon dioxide underground, which I think for this century is going to be critical, I don’t think we get to these goals without companies and enterprises that conservatives have championed.”