For example, New York is now committed to increasing its share of electricity generated from renewable sources for 17 per cent to 25 per cent. New Jersey, along with the New England states, announced that they will cut carbon dioxide emissions to 1990 levels by 2010, and to 10 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020. If they were a single nation, the New England states, New York and New Jersey would rank as the world’s eighth largest greenhouse gas emitter.

Many of the states that are considering taking such actions are being driven by a fear that they may otherwise face legislation to meet tougher standards in the future. Other states are trying to develop their renewable energy businesses. The Senate will soon get the chance to vote on a new bill that sets out national cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. The bill is co-sponsored by Republican senator John McCain of Arizona and Democratic senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, and it calls for emissions to be scaled back to 2000 levels by 2010, and to 1990 levels by 2016. These fall short of Kyoto targets, which require a 5.2 per cent cut in 1990 levels by 2012, but McCain and Lieberman are also calling for the introduction of an emissions trading system similar to those already in use elsewhere. At the same time, an even tougher bill, put forward by Vermont’s senator James Jeffords and minority leader Thomas Daschle, calls for all new federal projects to be assessed for their potential impact on the climate.