The U.S. Climate Alliance (USCA), in its annual report released on Sept. 23, said that it offers five recommendations that Congress and the federal government should integrate into future national climate policy, including ensuring that climate and energy policy goals are aligned with science.
“The world’s top scientists have mapped out several strategies for achieving emissions reductions that would allow us to avoid the worst impacts of climate change by midcentury,” the USCA said. “They also tell us what climate impacts may lie ahead if we fail to reach these emissions-reduction targets. Such scientific projections are vitally important tools for informing and developing climate and energy policies that help us achieve the necessary cuts in carbon pollution and ensure that our communities are resilient in the face of extreme weather and climate impacts.”
Another recommendation calls for Congress and the federal government to include equity, environmental justice, and family sustaining jobs at the core of climate and recovery policy, the USCA said.
The USCA — which, as noted in the report, is a bipartisan coalition of 25 governors committed to transitioning to a clean energy economy and advancing the goals of the Paris Agreement — noted: “The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic crisis have taken a staggering toll on this nation, with an outsized impact on minority communities. High-profile police shootings have compounded these structural injustices, leading to a national outcry against the racial inequities that have long plagued our country.”
The federal government should ensure that residents and businesses across all communities have ample opportunity to shape and comment on climate policy, direct resources to help at-risk communities address climate change and benefit from the transition to clean energy, as well as address the harm caused by previous policies, the USCA said.
The USCA further recommended that Congress and the federal government utilize Alliance members’ experience and knowledge to develop national policy frameworks together. Any national economic recovery and climate and clean energy policy framework should build on state successes and draw from the lessons that they have learned, the USCA added.
In addition, the USCA recommended that Congress and the federal government support state leadership to address climate change as they respond to, and recover from, the COVID-19 crisis.
“Prior to the current recession, Alliance members’ economic output continued to grow even as we reduced our emissions, demonstrating that climate leadership and economic growth can go hand-in-hand,” the USCA added, noting, in part, “Major infrastructure investments, private-sector mobilization, and the creation of family-sustaining jobs will put us on a path to economic recovery and address the ever-growing climate crisis. ”
The fifth recommendation calls for Congress and the federal government to protect states’ ambition to go beyond federal standards, as well as formulate and implement policy within their own borders and in coordination with other states, the USCA said.
“States’ jurisdiction has proven increasingly important in times when federal governments roll back, weaken, or do not enforce climate regulations,” the USCA said. “Any federal climate legislation should avoid pre-emption clauses or, at a minimum, allow states to backstop rules if the federal government reverses course.”
Among other things, the USCA discussed recent actions, noting that Alliance members commit to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to at least 26% below 2005 levels by 2025, consistent with the U.S. commitment under the Paris Agreement, with several members recently revising and strengthening their goals in line with, and in response to, the latest climate science.
Other members continue to advance their climate goals, the USCA said, adding that Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, for instance, in November 2019 directed state agencies to collaborate to develop a climate strategy by Dec. 1, 2020, to meet Nevada’s carbon-reduction goals, while Maryland is on track to publish its 40-by-30 plan, which secures a 40% GHG reduction by 2030, as required by the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act.
Noting that Alliance members continue to decarbonize the electricity sector, the USCA said that California, for example, in June deployed the largest battery storage system in the United States, while Maine regulators in February initiated the largest clean energy procurement in the state’s history for up to 10% of the state’s electric load.
The USCA also said that Alliance members continue to participate in market-based climate programs that incentivize cost-effective emissions reductions by setting prices or caps on carbon pollution. The cap-and-trade program, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), in 2021 will welcome its eleventh member, Virginia, which plans to direct its auction proceeds toward flood preparedness, coastal resilience, and energy efficiency programs, with more than 50% of proceeds dedicated to energy efficiency projects in low-income communities, the USCA said.