As I write this, the world has concluded the international climate negotiations in Egypt. The United States brought to COP27 in Egypt the historic Anti-Inflation Act passed by Congress this summer as evidence of our renewed involvement with the rest of the world in climate action.
The anti-inflation law – which my colleague Dr. Rachel Cleetus called a bright moment of hope — is the most significant step Congress has ever taken to address climate change.
States are critical to global and US success
“It will not be enough if the federal government pushes money out of the door and keeps its hands off it,” says Dr. Cleetus. “We need states to actively seek out that money now on behalf of their constituents, so it gets to the right places.”
Let the last statement from Dr. Cleetus Impact: The science, solutions and ways forward are well documented – hence state and local decisions on resource allocation really, really don’t care.
Last week, I shared the findings of a report by Jo Field and Miriam Silverman Israel, two fellows in the University of New Hampshire’s Sustainability Institute fellowship program, who have partnered with UCS to assess the progress of climate action in each of the six New England states . They noted that much more work needs to be done, and done quickly, if the region is to address and overcome the challenges that climate change is posing to its communities, industries and natural habitats. Spurred on by the rapid progress in Maine since 2018, Field and Israel noted, “It is possible to work toward climate resilience quickly and effectively.” Conversely, they noted that New Hampshire is seriously lagging behind on climate change mitigation, and unfazed by New Hampshire’s lack of climate ambition.
After a global climate conference pointed out that few countries have serious plans to reach net-zero emissions targets by 2050-60, state and local governments will play an outsized role in implementing the inflation-reducing law plan for climate protection. In fact, every state must beat its weight.
On paper, at least, most New England states appear ready
Connecticut has an office for climate planning. Rhode Island has the Executive Climate Change Coordinating Council. The Maine Climate Council sits in the Governor’s Office for Future Policy Innovation. Massachusetts has a director for climate adaptation and resilience in the Executive Office for Energy and Environmental Affairs. New Hampshire has a website and a state climate protection plan that has been largely ignored for thirteen years. Vermont has a climate protection office. Field and Israel propose three common challenges for all six states:
1- Adaptation and mitigation efforts are largely isolated from each other;
2- The prospects of improper adjustment are very real; and
3- All six states were the least aligned with the principles of equity and community needs.
Use Field and Israel’s report to set expectations for climate action
The New England State Climate Action Assessment serves as a signal to the public and state legislators alike. (Just a minute? Then I encourage readers to look at Table 1, State-by-State Framework Analysis Results, on page 9 of their report.)
Now that the election is over, the Anti-Inflation Act has given policymakers a mandate to take action to slow climate change and make their state better able to withstand and contain the most damaging effects. The best way policymakers can do that is by embracing these climate and clean energy opportunities. UCS research earlier this year shows that states can reliably meet 100 percent of their electricity needs with renewable energy.
New Englanders can use the Fellows’ report as a starting point for communicating their expectations to their legislators. It is critical that we speak up and emphasize to our new and re-elected local and state leaders that transitions in state governments must include specific and robust climate goals and actions, that the six new New England governors take responsibility to lead meaningful and transformative climate action in their respective states, and to do so in a just and fair manner, and that the region’s governors must step up and take full advantage of the anti-inflation law and the bipartisan infrastructure law.
It’s up to all of us to hold the governors accountable
Let’s make sure every New England governor includes a concrete call to action on climate resilience in his inaugural address in 2023. Let’s make sure they commit to leading by example to their state and country.
Demand climate finance from country legislators
It’s budget drafting season in your state capital. We need to tell our lawmakers to adequately fund government initiatives and programs that reduce emissions from heat traps, thereby helping to slow the pace of climate change, and preparing for the impacts of a changing climate, to which we are already committed have, and to limit their state resilience gap.