On May 19th, 12 subnational states and provinces signed a non-binding agreement called the Under 2 MOU, formally committing to fight climate change. The Under 2 MOU outlines increased efforts by the parties to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 to 95 percent below 1990s levels by 2050, or reduce per capita annual emission levels to less than 2 metric tons by 2050. The agreement is part of building momentum for meaningful international commitments in advance of the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris this December.

The 12 founding signatories of Under 2 MOU are subnational state and regional governments from seven countries, including California, Vermont, Oregon, and Washington, USA; Acre, Brazil; BadenWurrttemberg, Germany; Baja California and Jalisco, Mexico; Catalonia, Spain; Ontario and British Columbia, Canada; and Wales, UK. These 12 states and regions represent $4.5 trillion in GDP and 100 million people. If they were a country, they would be the 4th largest economy in the world.

The Under 2 MOU signatories have set a goal of limiting the increase in global temperature to no more than 2 degrees Celsius, the level of increase after which scientists predict serious environmental consequences. They are also seeking additional signatories leading up to COP21, and hope to influence more aggressive action against climate change at the Paris conference.

California Governor Jerry Brown played a large role in this unique process. His state continues to experience first-hand the detrimental impacts of climate change, including prolonged drought, reduced snowfall, rising sea levels, extreme heat and an extended wild fire season. Brown stated that their purpose is to “create pressure from below,” convincing other states and subnational global leaders to join the fight against climate change based on local-level environmental threats.

Since Under 2 MOU is a non-binding as among the parties, it is up to these state and regional leaders to assure that their jurisdictions develop rules that enable them to meet targets. Praised by environmentalists, Under 2 MOU is a stepping-stone toward getting strong national commitments to combat climate change.