At the end of last year, 195 countries at the Paris Climate Summit agreed to the first-ever global agreement to cut carbon. The agreement reflects the momentum that cities, companies, countries, and civil society groups have built since the first international climate conference in 1992.
For two and a half weeks I was in Paris to meet with delegates and leaders from across the world to talk about Minnesota’s successful clean energy policies and how others can use similar policies to cut carbon. I was particularly honored to speak at a press conference hosted by the U.S. Climate Action Network to provide analysis of President Obama’s remarks to the 154 heads of state together under one roof.
The landmark agreement was made possible, in part, by the business community. Businesses delivered a compelling package of support for ambitious action. Minnesota in particular presented strong private sector commitments, from Minnesota-based Cargill, General Mills, Target, and Best Buy – as well as commitments from Xcel Energy, the fourth largest utility in the country, to cut carbon in its Minnesota operations 60 percent by 2030.
The United States brought significant carbon reduction commitments (already in U.S. law) to Paris, including a doubling of fuel-economy standards for automobiles (to 54.5 mpg by 2025) and the Clean Power Plan, which requires 32 percent reductions in carbon from power plants by 2030. Immediately after Paris, the U.S. Congress extended wind and solar tax credits that will accelerate our shift to clean energy.
After I met with Secretary of State John Kerry and his negotiating team, it was clear to me that these commitments made all the difference in reaching this universal agreement.
Moving forward, leading states like Minnesota need to push harder and faster to achieve carbon reductions that grow our economy. Timing is essential: we know that global emissions must peak as soon as possible and then decline even faster. It’s up to leading economies to demonstrate that we can achieve net-zero emissions.