STATEMENT: As COP26 fosters global climate cooperation, U.S. needs to take action

Media Contacts
Matt Casale

Former Director, Environment Campaigns, PIRG

States’ aggressive climate policies can set template for U.S. government, other countries


BOSTON — The 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) starting Sunday in Glasgow, Scotland, will bring world leaders together to work on achieving the objectives of the international Paris Agreement about climate action. The conference’s goals include facilitating net-zero global-warming emissions worldwide by mid-century, enacting policies to achieve the pressing target of keeping the Earth’s average temperature at no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels, and adapting to protect communities and natural habitats. 

The 13-day conference begins just three days after President Joe Biden’s administration released a framework for the Build Back Better plan. That proposal will fund crucial environmental infrastructure in the United States and build on the successful climate action in many states since the Paris Agreement.

Matt Casale, PIRG Environment Campaigns Director, issued the following statement: 

“As the world faces an increasingly destructive climate crisis, COP26 provides an important opportunity for global collaboration. Worldwide commitments from COP26 can help us all make progress toward a livable planet for generations to come. But as we saw when President Donald Trump tried to remove the United States from the Paris Agreement, our country needs internal accountability as well as external goals. We need to pass our own strong climate and clean energy legislation. The recently announced Build Back Better framework is a big step forward and lays the groundwork for an accelerated transition to clean energy. But state action has been — and will continue to be — key to achieving the emissions reductions we ultimately need.

“Many states have become climate leaders by putting key policies in place, even as federal climate progress lags. Twenty-four states are committed to carbon emission reduction targets. States across the country are committing to transitioning to all-electric vehicles and buses. Both are crucial steps toward building a more sustainable future. As COP26 helps drive the global fight against climate change, we need states to continue their leadership in our backyards by encouraging electric vehicles, setting strong energy building codes and waste reduction goals, and much more. If all our state governments and the federal government join forces, they’ll wield immense power to reduce pollution and stymie climate change.”

Johanna Neumann, senior director of Environment America Campaign for 100% Renewable Energy, issued the following statement:

“Our nation is at a pivotal moment. We have an opportunity to repower our lives with clean and renewable energy that doesn’t pollute our air or water or threaten our climate. And, if we seize that opportunity, we can lead the world by example at COP26 and beyond. 

“The recently announced Build Back Better Framework is a great start. The framework includes clean energy tax incentive programs that will be crucial to tapping more of our vast renewable potential over the coming decade. But those programs won’t be enough on their own. We’ll also need states to continue leading the way toward a future powered by 100% clean and renewable energy. To date, nine states have already committed to 100% clean or renewable electricity, and dozens more have other renewable energy targets on the books. We know that those policies work. The U.S. produces almost four times as much renewable electricity from the sun and wind as it did in 2010, and about 50% of the remarkable growth we’ve seen in renewable power since 2000 has been attributed to state renewable energy requirements. 

“If we can get our state and federal leaders all rowing in the same direction with urgency, we can lock in another decade or more of rapid progress.”