States that are using policy to fight climate change
As the effects of climate change reach an increasing number of ecosystems and communities, global discourse and debate on the topic are being turned into policy by governing bodies. The work to stall or even reverse climate change in the United States is most evident at the state and local level, as the Trump administration and much of its base continues to deny scientific data suggesting a correlation between human activity and expansion of the greenhouse effect.
To track each state’s efforts to combat climate change, Stacker has compiled data from the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) State Climate Policy Maps. These maps illustrate where specific laws or initiatives have been enacted in order to curtail climate change, and reveal 40 states with concerted policies designed to curtail the effects of climate change.
C2ES organizes these efforts into five different categories. Greenhouse gas emissions targets set goals for reducing emissions for the sake of the environment. Carbon pricing functions through cap-and-trade programs and emissions taxes, incentivizing businesses to reduce their carbon footprints. Renewable and alternate energy portfolio standards require energy companies to deliver a certain amount of power through alternative and renewable sources (particularly solar, wind, and nuclear). Decoupling policies implement economic changes that help energy companies sustain economic growth without negatively impacting the environment. Finally, low-carbon fuel standards are self-explanatory, with lower-carbon transportation fuels being enforced.
Did your state make the list? And if so, how does it rate in each of these five categories? Read on to find out.
Renewable and alternate energy portfolio standards: House Bill 306
A major energy and gas provider, Alaska is the state closest to the Arctic; and rising sea levels put the state's infrastructure, businesses, and inhabitants at risk.
Former Gov. Sean Parnell signed House Bill 306 into law on June 16, 2010, setting a statewide goal for Alaska to draw 50% of its electricity from alternative and renewable sources by 2025. Gov. Bill Walker and Democratic Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott, who defeated Parnell and Dan Sullivan in Alaska's 2014 gubernatorial election, are moving to create additional initiatives to combat climate change. These proposals include slashing state emissions by 2025 and taxing businesses for their carbon emissions.
Greenhouse gas emissions targets: Executive Order 2006-13
Renewable and alternate energy portfolio standards: RPS
Decoupling policies: Arizona Corporation Commission utilities decoupling
Under Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat who later served as Barack Obama's Department of Homeland Security, Arizona made efforts more than a decade ago to set standards encouraging the reduction of emissions. These strides included a 2006 executive order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 2000 levels by 2020, and 50% below those 2000 levels by 2040. The state also passed new standards for power companies, requiring them to produce at least 15% of their energy from renewable resources by 2025 or face penalties. Studies suggest Arizona will face dangerous effects of climate change, namely from intense heat leading to deaths and economic losses. Other research predicts that if current heat trajectories continue, Arizona will be near-uninhabitable by 2050.
Greenhouse gas emissions targets: SB 32
State carbon pricing policies: AB 398
Renewable and alternate energy portfolio standards: SB 107
Decoupling policies: Energy Savings and Performance Incentive
Low carbon fuel standard: Governor's Executive Order S-01-07
The country's most energy-efficient state, California leads the way in the fight against climate change. Many of the state's efforts have included improving and extending policies signed into law by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. With policies in all five categories set by the state, overall goals include reducing emissions below 1990 levels, implementing a cap-and-trade program, having an ambitious 50% of energy come from renewable sources by 2030, a decoupling program, and a low carbon fuel standard. Just this past September, Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown met with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco. The two leaders are committed to working together on reducing carbon emissions, despite what Brown considers regressive measures by the Trump White House.
Greenhouse gas emissions targets: Executive Order D 2017-015
Renewable and alternate energy portfolio standards: HB 10-1001
Colorado's environmental policies have long-reflected the state's reputation for being a haven for progressive ideas. Former Gov. Bill Ritter staked a deadline of 2020 for Colorado to draw 30% of its electricity renewable sources. More recently, Gov. John Hickenlooper in 2017 signed an executive order pledging to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the state to 26% below 2005 levels before the year 2025. Local cities and counties throughout the state have additionally taken the initiative to sue energy companies such as ExxonMobil and BP for releasing emissions that thwarted these communities' efforts toward sustainability.
Greenhouse gas emissions targets: HB 5600
State carbon pricing policies: Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative
Renewable and alternate energy portfolio standards: HB 7432
Decoupling policies: Electricity and Energy Efficiency Act
Though small in land mass, Connecticut has taken some big strides against climate change. These efforts include joining in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to cap and reduce carbon dioxide emissions, pledging to meet the reduction target of greenhouse gas emissions to 10% below 1990 levels and produce 27% of energy from renewables by 2020, and implementing a decoupling program that offers performance incentives for energy-efficient offerings. Connecticut faces climate change consequences such as warmer waters, shoreline flooding, and dangerous storms. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy stated his commitment to the fight against climate change, despite President Trump withdrawing the country from the Paris Agreement.
State carbon pricing policies: Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative
Renewable and alternate energy portfolio standards: SB 119
Decoupling policies: SB 150
The country's first state is one of several participants in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which includes provisions to limit carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. Former Gov. Ruth Ann Minner in 2007 signed a bill requiring 2% of the state's power supply to come from solar energy by 2019; this has since then been revised to 25% by 2025 and 2026. Reports show 2017 was a record-high year for temperatures in Delaware, and studies indicate 11% of Delaware will be underwater by 2100 if climate change is not curtailed.
Greenhouse gas emissions targets: Executive Order 07-127
Several reports suggest Florida is the state most at risk from climate change, but the government has not responded to the threat at a proportionate level. Besides a 2007 measure by then-Gov. Charlie Crist to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by the year 2050, C2ES has little information on any statewide efforts. Florida's major cities are most at risk from climate change, standing to lose extensive areas to rising sea levels. Rampant skepticism from Republican leaders regarding climate change has spurred local communities to take their own sustainable efforts.
Greenhouse gas emissions targets: Global Warming Solutions Act of 2007
Decoupling policies: Hawaii Public Utilities Commission Docket No. 2008-0274
As a state comprised of several islands unprotected by the mainland, people living in Hawaii have warranted concerns about rising sea levels and more intense storms due to climate change. A 2007 act signed by former Gov. Linda Lingle mandated that greenhouse gas emissions be reduced to 1990 levels by 2020. Hawaii also implemented a new decoupling mechanism in 2010. Hawaiians are concerned about the large economic costs of climate change as sea levels continue to rise. Gov. David Ige made a commitment in 2015 for 100% of electricity in Hawaii to come from renewable resources by 2045.
Decoupling policies: Idaho Public Utilities Commission decoupling program
The state of Idaho has been particularly unwelcoming to the idea of climate change. Despite a 2007 pilot decoupling program (made permanent in 2012), few statewide measures have been taken to battle climate change. In fact, any mention of climate change science was erased from teaching standards in the state just last year. It took a vote this year from a Senate committee to restore climate change to the state's education.
Greenhouse gas emissions targets: Statewide greenhouse gas reduction targets
Renewable and alternate energy portfolio standards: Public Act 095-0481
Illinois joined ranks with several other states targeting reductions in greenhouse gases back in 2007 by outlining a goal to reduce emissions 60% below 1990 levels by 2050. By 2025, the state plans to draw 25% of its electricity from renewable sources, 75% of that being from wind power. While Illinois is less at risk from natural disasters or shoreline damage than other coastal or southern states, intense heat from climate change poses risks to the state's infrastructure by potentially reducing the lifespan of roads, bridges, and railways.2018 All rights reserved.