It’s an important time to work on state climate and clean energy policy. Climate action is more urgent than ever, with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently concluding “there is a rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a livable and sustainable future for all.” At the same time, climate ambition at the federal and state levels is at an all-time high.
Clean Air Task Force’s new U.S. State Energy and Climate Policy Program leverages the deep technical and policy expertise CATF is known for, and provides timely, fact-based education, analysis, and insights to advance climate and clean energy solutions across the country.
I joined CATF last fall from North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper’s office, where I served as the Senior Advisor for Climate Change Policy as North Carolina advanced a comprehensive strategy for tackling climate pollution across the economy. That position, as well as my time at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Duke University’s Nicholas Institute, allowed me to work closely with climate and energy leaders in states nationwide. I’ve also had the fortune of collaborating with government, advocacy, community, and business leaders in implementing practical solutions to the complex problem of global climate change.
At this pivotal moment for climate action at the state level – I want to share a bit about the importance of state action, what guides CATF’s state policy advocacy, and what our state policy program will focus on this year.
Why state policy? Three reasons state climate action is critical
When it comes to developing new state policies or implementing the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), and federal rulemakings, states are where the rubber meets the road. States, for example, can develop policies like clean truck rules and clean energy standards, build infrastructure for electric vehicle charging stations, develop hydrogen hubs, and proactively upgrade grid infrastructure. States also can unlock unprecedented levels of federal financial incentives to implement these laws – strengthening their economies while leading the way on U.S. climate action. State action is critical to advancing climate solutions that work.
- States make daily decisions that impact climate change. Though federal action receives a lot of attention (and for good reason), states make significant decisions that directly and indirectly affect in-state emissions. Whether it be transportation investments, energy planning, building codes, environmental permitting, job training, or government procurement, state decisions either increase or decrease emissions, affecting air quality, public health, and climate.
- States lead the way with ambitious climate commitments and policies. States are committed champions for air quality and climate ambition across the country, setting science-based emissions reduction and climate goals, embedding them in legislation and executive plans, and pushing forward innovative policy frameworks to decarbonize their economies. For example, 22 states have set 100% clean energy goals, and 11 states have legislation requiring 100% clean or renewable energy. Even when federal leadership has faltered, states have remained resolute in their efforts to act on climate change, ensuring continued U.S. leadership.
- States provide policy innovation and catalyze broader regional and federal action. States craft solutions to meet their own unique set of political, economic, and social considerations – including natural resource assets, community sentiment, political makeup, and economic circumstances. The resulting policy and programmatic innovations create a diversity of approaches for other states to learn from and adapt. In addition, state policy lays a foundation from which federal lawmakers and regulators can expand successful approaches nationally.
What guides our work? Supporting practical solutions, customized engagement, bipartisanship, and community input
CATF brings its uniquely effective advocacy approach to the state level. Our State Policy Program closely collaborates with government officials, communities, and a broad range of local stakeholders to ensure the effective implementation of state policies, federal funding, and federal regulations. Our state policy work is guided by the same principles that have steered CATF’s global advocacy for more than 25 years:
- Practical solutions. We need a diverse set of pragmatic solutions to decarbonize energy systems and achieve climate goals. CATF supports policies and practices that advance a broad range of technologies — including wind and solar, nuclear energy, carbon capture, zero-carbon fuels, geothermal, and zero-emission vehicles — and ensure optionality for achieving deep reductions across the economy.
- Customized engagement. CATF values each state’s unique economic, political, environmental, and cultural considerations. And we realize one size does not fit all when it comes to decarbonization pathways or the policies that enable them. CATF customizes its work to individual states in order to advance policies and technologies that will maximize climate, economic, community, and public health benefits.
- Bipartisanship. CATF understands that durable policies must withstand shifting political winds and appeal to a wide range of constituents. We’re committed to developing durable state policies by working with a diverse array of stakeholders to set the course for lasting progress.
- Community input. CATF is committed to ensuring policies are designed and implemented with considerations of equity at the center of decision making. Community engagement and support is an essential part of the policymaking process.
We work with key decisionmakers throughout the country to support the passage of state policies that embody these principles – including clean energy standards, zero-carbon fuel standards, and policies that convert net-zero emissions pledges into action.
Getting to work: CATF’s 2023 state priorities to support new policies, implementation of federal funding, and federal environmental regulations
As CATF expands its expertise across the United States, we are supporting policymakers, stakeholders, and communities to create policies that reduce emissions and advance the broad suite of climate and clean energy solutions needed for economy-wide decarbonization. Here’s where we’re focusing our advocacy efforts in 2023:
- State policies. CATF helps establish and implement state policies, such as clean energy standards, advanced clean truck rules, methane standards, and state climate goals. The most effective policies allow utilities, industry, and customers to reduce emissions and increase economic opportunities through a diverse clean energy portfolio, zero-emission vehicles, decarbonized industrial processes, and purchase decisions.
- IRA and IIJA. Congress has directed unprecedented levels of federal investment in states, and we are working with decisionmakers to help states secure and optimize this funding by providing analyses, recommendations, and implementation tools.
- Federal environmental regulations. The EPA is developing updates to a variety of greenhouse gas and air pollution rules, and CATF is prepared to help states incorporate those rules into planning and implementation decisions.
Our work is just getting started
To advance this work, CATF’s State Policy Program has built a team of state policy experts with diverse professional experience and deep ties to the regions in which they work, with staff in the West, Midwest, Gulf Coast, Northeast, and Southeast. Learn more about our team here.
Stay tuned, we’re just getting started.
Learn more about climate and energy policy opportunities in the U.S. heartland from Angela Seligman, CATF’s Senior Midwest Regional Policy Manager in a thought piece here.