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Expand chart
Reproduced from a Brookings Institution report; Chart: Axios Visuals

A just-published Brookings Institution analysis of U.S. cities' pledges to cut carbon emissions reveals very mixed results.

Why it matters: The potential — and limits — of city and state initiatives have gotten more attention amid President Trump's scuttling of Obama-era national policies.

The big picture: It finds "laudable aspirations, notable GHG reductions in some cases, and less auspicious outcomes in most other cities."

The state of play: The authors undertook the difficult task of comparing cities' emissions-cutting vows and progress toward meeting them.

  • Plans have varying baseline years, targets and so forth, and the analysis also has to grapple with what might happen in the absence of the plans.
  • There's also a time-lag in getting information, but that map above is close to the current state of play, Brookings analyst Mark Muro said.

Where it stands: Among the 100 most populous U.S. cities, only 45 have both emissions-cutting targets and a detailed emissions tally — or "inventory" — to gauge them against.

  • Seventeen of those 45 have rolled out new or upgraded plans since Trump took office.
  • These cities' pledges often align with the goal of cutting emissions by 80% by 2050.
  • That's aggressive but falls short of what's needed globally to hold warming to 1.5°C above preindustrial levels, the study notes.
  • Another 22 of these 100 cities have vowed emissions cuts but lack specific targets or completed inventories.

By the numbers: If the 45 cities with plans and baseline data successfully follow through, it would cut emissions by an estimated 365 million metric tons of CO2-equivalent annually by 2050.

  • That's the equivalent of taking 79 million passenger vehicles off the roads, the report states.
  • Viewed another way, that "translates to roughly 6% of total U.S. GHG emissions in 2017," it finds.
  • That's "not insignificant," but also far from the net-zero by 2050 levels consistent with the very ambitious 1.5°C goal.

Threat level: Lots of cities are falling behind on their pledges.

  • Of 32 cities that conducted new inventories since 2010, 26 have cut emissions compared to baseline levels, led by L.A.'s 47% cut below 1990 levels. Six have seen increases, led by Tucson, Arizona's growth.
  • "Overall, about two-thirds of cities are currently lagging their targeted emission levels." On average, cities analyzed would need to cut emissions by 64% by 2050 to meet their goals.

What's next: The report offers ways to bolster and expand city initiatives.Two examples: More philanthropic help for small and midsized cities; and more big-city efforts to decarbonize power generated outside their borders by working with surrounding communities, regional governments and other stakeholders.

Go deeper

Jan 27, 2021 - Axios Twin Cities

Scoop: Amazon Fresh eyes multiple Twin Cities locations

An Amazon Fresh store in California. Photo: Paul Bersebach/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images

Amazon is planning a big entry into the Twin Cities grocery market beyond just the Burnsville store we told you about on Tuesday.

What's happening: Amazon also wants to bring checkout-free Fresh stores to Eagan Town Centre and a former JCPenney store in Coon Rapids' Riverdale Village, Nick confirmed with his sources.

The rebellion against Silicon Valley (the place)

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Smith Collection/Gado via Getty Images

Silicon Valley may be a "state of mind," but it's also very much a real enclave in Northern California. Now, a growing faction of the tech industry is boycotting it.

Why it matters: The Bay Area is facing for the first time the prospect of losing its crown as the top destination for tech workers and startups — which could have an economic impact on the region and force it to reckon with its local issues.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Here come Earmarks 2.0

DeLauro at a hearing in May 2020. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The House Appropriations Committee is preparing to restore a limited version of earmarks, which give lawmakers power to direct spending to their districts to pay for special projects.

Why it matters: A series of scandals involving members in both parties prompted a moratorium on earmarks in 2011. But Democrats argue it's worth the risk to bring them back because earmarks would increase their leverage to pass critical legislation with a narrow majority, especially infrastructure and spending bills.