America on the Move

Released by: Environment New Jersey Research and Policy Center

Executive Summary

As world leaders prepare to meet in Copenhagen to develop a plan of action to combat global warming, all eyes are on the United States. As the world’s largest economy, the second-largest emitter of global warming pollution, and the nation responsible for more of the human-caused carbon dioxide pollution in the atmosphere than any other, the success of the Copenhagen negotiations – and the future of the planet – depend on American leadership.

The United States has gained a reputation, exacerbated during the presidency of George W. Bush, of obstructionism in the fight against global warming. But, over the last decade, America’s state governments – where the bulk of on-the-ground energy policy decision-making is made in America’s federal system of government – have taken the nation on a different course, one of innovative and increasingly aggressive action to reduce global warming pollution.

The impact of state-level actions to reduce global warming pollution is significant on a global scale. A review of dozens of individual state policies, federal policies based on state models, and new federal policies in which states will have key roles in implementation suggests that state actions will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 536 million metric tons per year by 2020. That is more global warming pollution than is currently emitted annually by all but eight of the world’s nations, and represents approximately 7 percent of U.S. global warming pollution in 2007.

America’s clean energy revolution – led by the states – shows that the nation is ready to commit to the emission reductions science tells us are necessary to prevent the worst impacts of globalwarming. President Obama should build on these actions by working to forge a strong international agreement to address global warming during the Copenhagen talks.