State and local governments are leading the way when it comes to the development and implementation of climate solutions. While each is pursuing different avenues to meet sustainability goals, they each are improving the lives of residents by fostering cleaner, healthier neighborhoods for residents to live in, creating stable, well paying jobs, and simultaneously helping to address global climate change.
States Leading the Way
California, which has been at the forefront of climate action, recently passed an ambitious new bill slingshoting the state into uncharted territory as an environmental leader—both here in the United States, and internationally.
First passed in 2006 by then governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, AB-32, or the Global Warming Solutions Act, set out to decrease fossil fuel emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. The bill helped launch California’s cap and trade program, mandated energy efficiency standards, and required utilities to begin transitioning to renewables. And all of this was accomplished with a thriving economy.
A newer version of the bill, SB-32, will require the state to decrease emissions even further, 40% by 2030. While the first round of SB-32 has proven to exceed expectations, the latest incarnation and standards will prove more challenging. Lawmakers will have to redouble efforts at transforming power generation to renewables, investing in mass transit, exploring carbon capture technologies, and more.
"I don’t consider myself a climate change activist… I consider myself an advocate for my community." Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia
However difficult, California has proven that ambitious state climate goals can be met when leaders commit to climate solutions. But statewide solutions are not enough, and climate challenges don’t recognize borders. This is why many climate leaders are beginning to explore ways to get their neighbors in on the action.
Transforming state policy is certainly the first step towards meaningful action. However, many states throughout the country are extending the reach of their climate goals by partnering with others in order to affect regional change.
One of the models for this type of collaborative climate action is currently underway in New England. Already under the umbrella of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, Governor Charles Baker of Massachusetts is hoping to accelerate climate progress in the Northeast. To this end, the Baker administration has proposed a 5% decrease in greenhouse gas emissions each year between 2020 and 2031. While not every state within the existing regional agreement has made the pledge, the pressure and ambition of state leaders to act marks a bold commitment to climate action.
The Bigger Picture
What shouldn't be lost in this discussion is that leaders at the local, state and regional level are acting not primarily for the benefit of environmental stewardship, but in the best interests of their constituents. Climate action makes cities healthier places for residents to live and raise families. Cleaner air and less pollution is associated with a decreased incidence of asthma and other respiratory diseases. Transitioning to clean energy creates stable, well paying jobs for Americans. Already, renewable energy employs three Americans for every one job in coal. This is a sector of the economy that cannot be outsourced, and one that is projected to see increased growth over the coming decades.
The efforts by climate leaders at the local and state level have become an increasingly important aspect of the climate solution picture. The work by these state and regional leaders are becoming the envy of the world, and states are even finding themselves in the unique position of pressuring federal officials to ramp up national climate solutions. In order to implement effective climate action plans, leaders must equip themselves with the necessary materials and information. The most important element of such a toolkit is the knowhow and most up-to-date research on communicating with ones’ constituents. To this end, ecoAmerica has released 15 effective steps for effective climate communication that can immediately enrich or enhance your dialogue with residents about the benefits of climate action in your city.
Stuart Wood is a writer at Path to Positive Communities and an adjunct professor. He has a Ph.D. in Political Science from Claremont Graduate University, where he focused on climate change, political communications and psychology. Email him at [email protected]
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