Lawmakers in Colorado, historically a major coal state, have passed more than 50 climate-related laws since 2019. Liquor store in the farm town of Morris, Minn., Energy-cooled beer solar quantity. Voters in Athens, Ohio, have imposed a carbon charge on themselves. The citizens of Fairfax County, Va., have been collaborating for a year and a half to produce a 214-page climate action plan.
Across the country, communities and states are accelerating efforts to combat climate change as actions at the national level. This week, the Supreme Court curtailed the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, one of the planet’s biggest sources of warming pollution – for example. the latest on how the Biden administration’s climate tools being chipped.
During the Trump administration, which has drastically weakened environmental and climate protections, local efforts have become important. Now, experts say, local action is even more important for the United States – second only to China in emissions – to have a chance to help the world avert bad effects. worst of global warming.
This patchwork approach is no substitute for a coordinated national strategy. Local governments have limited reach, authority and funding.
But as the legislative and regulatory options available in Washington, DC, become increasingly limited, “Countries really matter in helping the nation meet our climate goals,” Kyle said. Clark-Sutton, US analyst group manager said the program at RMI, a clean energy hub. “They have a real chance to take the lead. They took the lead.”
For example, New York and Colorado are on track to reduce electricity-related emissions by 80% or more by 2030, compared with 2005 levels, according to the new state. scorecard from RMI.
By excluding partisan politics from public discussions on climate policy, consensus can sometimes be reached at the national level.
That’s what happened in Morris, a city of about 5,000 people in Minnesota, not far from the South Dakota border. There, the University of Minnesota Morris campus leans to the left politically, while the surrounding farming communities lean to the right. But both communities broadly support – and have helped shape – “Morris modelIt calls for a 30% reduction in energy consumption by 2030, 80% of the county’s electricity generation by 2030 (thus ensuring it comes from renewable sources) and eliminating landfill waste by 2020. 2025.
“We’ve never been so focused on climate that we need to talk about it, because you don’t have to,” said Blaine Hill, city manager. Note the benefits of lower energy bills and more local economic activity from locally produced electricity. “You can go around that and start working on things.”
Morris has solar panels on the community center, library, liquor store, and town hall. It has installed an electric vehicle charging station at the grocery store and is running a composting program. The university has solar panels on poles, high enough for cows to graze below, and two wind turbines.
The Biden Administration’s Environmental Agenda
President Biden is pushing for stronger regulations, but faces a narrow path to achieving his goal in the fight against global warming.
The University of Minnesota’s West Central Research and Outreach Center uses wind energy to create fertilizer for crops below turbines – disrupting the traditional, high-emissions-intensive fertilizer production process that is often inherent petroleum origin.
Mike Reese, director of renewable energy at the research center, said it was no problem he had a political disagreement with Troy Goodnough, director of sustainability at the University of Minnesota Morris.
“Troy is more liberal, I am more conservative,” Mr. Reese said. “But we also share the same philosophies when it comes to climate change, resilience, but especially about creating wealth and making our communities better for generations to come. follow.”
Goodnough said the campus often helps demonstrate technologies later adopted by the city. That helped people consider options they might have eliminated.
“I have people come up to me and ask, ‘Hey, how did you do that solar system on your roof?'” Mr. Hill said. “”Looks pretty cool.”
One advantage of community strategies is that they can be tailored to the needs of the local economy—agriculture in Morris’s case.
The city has allocated $6 million to plant trees in predominantly low-income neighborhoods. It installed 40 miles cool sidewalk, can reduce the temperature at night. And it have a plan by 2030 put 280,000 electric vehicles on city roads.
The city council committee that developed that plan includes elected officials as well as representatives from utility companies, automakers and environmental justice groups. It held a meeting between housing developers – who do not want to install electric vehicle charging stations in new buildings – and representatives from Ford and General Motors. Councilman Yassamin Ansari said the session seemed to help developers realize that installing chargers is in line with market trends.
As conversations move from city to state level, they tend to grow more partisan.
Colorado passed sweeping climate legislation only after Democrats won control of both houses of the legislature in 2018. Governor Jared Polis, a Democrat, was elected that year. on the foundation of achieving 100% clean energy in the state by 2040, and core – 2019 HB 1261which calls for a 90% reduction in emissions below 2005 levels by 2050 – passed without Republican support.
But outside of the state legislature, that law and the dozens that followed drew support from some uncertain places.
KC Becker, speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives from 2019 to 2021, said meetings with unions representing oil and gas workers are “a huge part of getting something through.” (Ms. Becker, now EPA’s regional administrator, spoke as a former lawmaker, not on behalf of the agency.) One appeal: the creation of the Office of Technology Transformation. to help fossil fuel workers find new jobs. Law makers allocate 15 million dollars for it This year.
Colorado’s largest electricity suppliers, Xcel Energy and Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association Inc., are also present. Both plan to close their last coal plants in the state by 2030.
Between the election and the inauguration of Mr. Polis, Xcel voluntarily committed to reduce carbon emissions by 80% by 2030. Lawmakers then offered incentives for other utilities: If they submitted a plan to hit the same mark, the state aviation commission would not further adjust their 2030 emissions.
“The vast majority of them have gone beyond what the rules require,” said Will Toor, executive director of the Colorado Office of Energy. “It creates a momentum where people can claim victory.”
Colorado still has a lot of work to do. RMI found that, while on track to meet its 2030 reduction target in the electricity sector, current policies would reduce total emissions by 2030 only by 33 percent – less than the 50 percent that the company committed. (That forecast doesn’t take into account some recent laws.)
The gap is in areas like buildings and transportation, where it’s harder to reduce emissions “because there are countless individual households making the decision to buy an electric car or electric stove or just equipment more efficiently,” said Stacy Tellinghuisen, climate policy manager for Western Resource Advocates, a nonprofit that operates in Colorado and six other states.
The climate plan in Fairfax County, Va., is unusual in part because it is implemented by several dozen community members rather than county officials. In most cases, programs like these come from the top down.
A goal of the plan, approved in September, is to educate county residents about the eco-friendly choices they can make. Other plans include solar panels on county buildings and an electric bus pilot program.
Jeffrey C. McKay, chairman of the county board of supervisors, said: “If the community isn’t involved, you’re not going to accomplish much more than write a beautiful plan and put it on a shelf and collect it. dust”.
A group of more than 50 residents listened to experts, reviewed the data, debated and voted on recommendations. The document identified 12 broad strategies in five areas: buildings and energy efficiency, energy supply, transportation, waste and natural resources. Strategies are divided into 37 suggested actions and scores of narrower “activities”.
Deb Harris, senior director of climate planning at consulting firm ICF, said Fairfax County is not an example of a specific model that every community should adopt, but rather a process adjustment. suitable for the community. Fairfax is a wealthy and highly educated person, with engaged residents who can spend months deliberating policy, she said.
In many other places, money and resources are major constraints.
“The fact that there is no financial support to help with this work is the main obstacle,” said Marianne MacQueen, a council member in Yellow Springs, Ohio. “Our staff is very tense.”
In the absence of much federal action, the task of helping local governments act on climate is falling into the hands of independent groups.
Yellow Springs is partnering with Power a Clean Future Ohio, a nonprofit that does not charge local government fees. “Wanting to do it and doing it is actually a completely different thing,” said Joe Flarida, chief executive of the group. Local governments have so many immediate concerns, like road repairs and public safety, that “climate goals would be on that list if you didn’t find a way to close that gap for them.” “.
As the gap narrows, it can come into play strongly.
In Athens, a college town in Ohio, in 2018, 76% of voters agreed to pay a carbon charge of 0.2 cents per kilowatt hour of electricity, generating about $100,000 in annual revenue for energy projects. renewable quantity. A study of Athens’ greenhouse gas emissions found that, per capita, they were among the lowest in the state.
“We talk about states being laboratories for democracy and I think the same is true for local jurisdictions,” said Tellinghuisen, of Western Resource Advocates. “States can create these prototypes or examples and demonstrate to the federal government that real progress is possible.”