We need states to show clean energy leadership

Smart policy often comes from the states, and many states have shown and are expected to continue to show leadership in addressing climate change and promoting clean energy.

The Clean Power Plan stimulated discussions across the country, sometimes for the first time, among state energy and environment department officials, regulators, and energy companies about ways to reduce emissions. And we see momentum to keep those and other conversations going.

Consider some of the many ways states are leading:

  • Already 10 states – home to more than a quarter of the U.S. population – have a price on carbon. California’s cap-and-trade program is cutting carbon emissions while the state has one of the nation’s best job growth rates. The nine states in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in the Northeast have cut carbon emissions from power plants 40 percent since 2005.
  • Many states are continuing to work on Clean Power Plan implementation. And even those not doing public planning are continuing to discuss ways to reduce emissions.
  • This month, a bipartisan group of 17 governors announced they will jointly pursue energy efficiency, renewable energy, modernizing the electricity grid and promoting electric and alternatively fueled vehicles.
  • Eight states are working together to reach the goal of getting more than 3 million zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2025.
  • States like Oregon, Washington, and others, have set ambitious greenhouse gas targets and are crafting policies to achieve their goals.

Recent analysis shows a gap between where we think policies can get us and where we’re trying to go – the pledge the U.S. made in Paris to reduce emissions 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

But our models may not be accurately capturing all of our actions, and the potential for technology, federal policy, local and state actions, and business efforts to accelerate progress. Who was predicting 10 years ago that solar and wind energy would become cheaper than coal or natural gas in some regions? Or that some of our largest companies would prioritize sustainability and low-emission environmental policy?

States have long been our incubators for innovative policy. They’ve been the source of most of our major national environmental regulations protecting our air and water.

The Clean Power Plan encourages states to innovate by giving them broad latitude to determine the policies that work best in their state to achieve the goal of reducing emissions. States’ continued efforts to reducing emissions will be important to helping us bridge the gap and meet our climate goals.