States Prove Crucial for Climate Progress

Our Daily Planet

A new report from the State Energy and Environmental Impact Center at NYU School of Law reveals that bold state leadership has been the primary source of progress in the US's response to the climate crisis, particularly in the absence of federal action in recent years. NYU's findings show that:

States can ensure sustained long-lasting work to cut emissions, independent of the balance of power in Washington, DC. State attorneys general were also instrumental in defending environmental policies in court.

States have implemented programs that can serve as models for other jurisdictions seeking to reduce GHG emissions as well.

States have shown that clean energy programs strengthen local and regional economies and have the potential to create jobs needed in disadvantaged communities.

Why This Matters

Since January 2017, the Trump administration rolled back over 100 environmental regulations, thus state efforts were crucial in maintaining progress toward Paris Agreement goals.

States that stayed committed to Paris goals saw the bulk of growth in clean energy jobs. For instance -- excluding energy efficiency positions -- the US renewable energy sector supported more than 555,000 jobs in 2018.

As the Biden Administration submits the US's new Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) for the Paris Agreement, the federal government will need states to continue making substantial and long-term progress on climate commitments.

Lessons from State Climate Policies

The report delineated three lessons to draw from the successes of states' environmental policies:

1. States can and do serve as models of how the US as a whole can reduce GHG emissions: The report emphasized that states have instituted ambitious emissions goals, and that the 2021 NDC should also acknowledge that these effective state-level programs can be replicated federally.

2. The US's 2021 NDC will need to rely, at least in part, on the commitments and progress states have made over the last four years: New analysis shows that by 2030, state and non-federal actors alone could lessen GHG emissions in the US by 37% compared with 2005 levels. This percentage could be boosted to 50% with federal cooperation. The report emphasizes that this cooperative model will be crucial in making progress on the US's' climate commitments.

3. The federal government should take steps to actively support states as they continue working to reduce their GHG emissions: The report recommends that the federal government should bolster state programs by funding state programs with grants or appointing a coordinator that would advocate for state and local governments as the Biden Administration continues to draft climate policy.


Copyright © 2021 Our Daily Planet. Reprinted here with permission. This version may have been edited from the original article published on April 15, 2021.