In the absence of federal action, the United States has seen a groundswell of local efforts and leadership in the fight against climate change. In addition to various states and corporations, many cities in the United States have committed to power their own operations with renewable energy. In fact, 132 U.S. cities and counties have gone even further and set 100 percent clean energy goals for their communities. While these goals are commendable, recent media articles covering this trend have raised several important questions, such as:

  • Does setting a clean energy goal with a far-off deadline achieve anything meaningful today?
  • How can cities achieve these goals, particularly municipalities that cannot control their electricity supply?
  • What impact can cities have on addressing a global challenge?

Or, put another way, what good are city clean-energy targets? To answer this broader question, let’s tackle each specific question above in turn.

Setting a future target can inspire, build consensus and spur action today

Cities often commit to meeting their goals 10 or more years into the future. Ambitious, long-term targets not only provide an inspiring vision for a community but also motivate action today. Specifically, setting a target allows cities to collaborate with their community to develop a plan which meets citizens’ needs and accelerate clean energy projects in the near term.

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