United States: California ‘Under 2 MOU' Demonstrates Ambition And Bottom Up Support For GHG Reductions In The Lead Up To COP 21

Last Updated: May 26 2015
Article by Jennifer A. Smokelin, Todd O. Maiden and Phillip H. Babich

Co-authored by Christopher Garcia

On May 19, 2015, California Governor Jerry Brown entered into a Memorandum of Understanding on Subnational Global Climate Leadership (the "MOU") with eleven other leaders from jurisdictions in North America, South America and Europe. In addition to Governor Brown, the 11 other signatories represented: Acre, Brazil; Baden-Württemberg, Germany; Baja California, Mexico; Catalonia, Spain; Jalisco, Mexico; Wales, UK; Ontario, Canada, British Columbia, Canada, Oregon, U.S.A., Vermont, U.S.A., and Washington, U.SA. The MOU's general objective is to limit increases in the global average temperature. The MOU sets forth a list of policy initiatives with the hope of keeping the average global temperature from rising no more than 2° Celsius.

The MOU is not a contract, nor is it a treaty, and it has no binding effect on the signatories, or on businesses operating within those jurisdictions. Importantly, the MOU does not change the California carbon trading market. So what is the big deal?

There are two very significant aspects to this agreement.

First, it is the harbinger of what will likely be a growing trend in the lead up to COP 21 in Paris: an indication of "bottom-up," subnational global support for greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions. This follows the growing trend to move from what was viewed under the Kyoto Protocol as a "top down" approach to international climate agreements to a more bottom-up approach – and one which is considered much more likely to succeed. Further, while this support does not mandate any particular mechanism to reduce GHGs, it could potentially bolster support for the existing and an expanded carbon market.

Second, with a stated goal of keeping the average global temperature from rising no more than 2° Celsius, this aim of a "super low emission future by the second half of the century" is not just signaling support for any GHG emissions reduction, but, rather, flat out support for a climate goal much more stringent that many intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) are on track for – a--call for significant action. INDCs are non-binding, self-imposed goals and policy undertakings for reducing GHG emissions that are communicated to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. These INDCs are generally a tepid reduction in comparison to the MOU. By entering into the MOU, the signatories adopt a goal of reducing GHG emissions 80 to 95 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, or reducing the per capita annual emission in their respective jurisdictions to less than 2 metric tons by that same year.

The MOU has no impact on California's Cap and Trade Program, the carbon credits and offsets exchange that started under AB32 in 2013. It also does not affect Governor Brown's recent Executive Order No. B-30-15, which sets GHG emission goals for 2030 at 40 percent below those emissions in 1990. There is no current legislation in the California State Senate or Assembly that would give the MOU any binding effect. The other signatories to the MOU merely reaffirmed their commitment to climate change through this non-binding agreement, adding no binding requirements for their respective jurisdictions.

Through the MOU, each signatory agreed to certain concepts and policy objectives aimed at achieving emissions standard goals by 2050, including to:

  • "share information and experience on redesign of the power supply and grid, technical solutions and advances in promoting large-scale switch to renewable energy and the integration of renewable energy sources"
  • "encourage land use planning that supports alternate modes of transit, especially public transit, biking, and walking"
  • "share information about management techniques to sequester carbon and protect natural infrastructure" and "share technologies to reduce waste or convert waste to secondary raw materials or to energy"
  • "collaborate and coordinate on messaging, transparency, public outreach around climate change, mitigation of GHG emissions, adaptation"
  • "collaborate and coordinate on scientific assessment efforts, and share information and experience in technology development and deployment" and "help others learn from experience to maximize success of technological transitions and avoid potential obstacles"
  • "collaborate on the reduction of short-lived climate pollutants such as black carbon and methane"
  • "to work towards consistent monitoring, reporting, and verification across jurisdictions"
  • "promote best practices in modeling and assessment to understand projected climate impacts, especially at the regional and local scale"
  • "work together to build metrics and indicators that can help to track progress in reducing the risk of climate change to people, natural systems, and infrastructure"
  • "work to share innovative models for financing and supporting climate adaptation, including public-private partnerships, resilience funds, and competitive approaches" and
  • "to share technology to the extent feasible, such as through open source information"

Although the MOU is non-binding on the signatories and does not set new regulatory requirements, the MOU is part of a broader subnational approach to climate change. This movement is gaining momentum for the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference to be held in Paris later this year, and shows that the local governments are concerned with climate change. Such concern and broader support for quantifiable and enforceable GHG emissions standards may also have an impact on California's carbon trading market. Those participating in the market may benefit because the MOU expands the number of jurisdictions that are committed to finding ways to incentivize GHG emission reductions, possibly through market mechanisms. Additionally, renewable energy development and green-minded infrastructure projects may increase in response to the MOU's policy objectives.

This article is presented for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute legal advice.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions