As the director of a program focused on climate and clean energy, these last few months have been a rollercoaster: one day there’s more bad news from the federal government and the next there is more good news from the states.
In these fast-changing times, the Heising-Simons Foundation remains committed to supporting efforts to protect people and the planet from the worst impacts of climate change.
Despite President Trump’s announcement that the U.S. will withdraw from the landmark global Paris Agreement, and thus abdicate U.S. leadership on climate change, the Foundation is proud to join We Are Still In, a broad coalition of cities, states, universities, businesses, and investors in support of climate action to meet the Paris Agreement’s goals.
Although federal agencies have begun the multi-year process of rolling back pollution standards for power plants, vehicles, and oil and gas infrastructure, following President Trump’s executive orders, there continues to be progress and rays of hope. In Congress, notwithstanding a lot of talk about rolling back the Obama administration’s rules, the only major climate and clean energy policy that was brought to a vote––to repeal limits on wasting natural gas on public lands––failed to pass.
At the same time, states continue to make rapid progress on climate and clean energy. Nevada, Colorado, and Maryland passed important new laws extending and increasing energy efficiency programs. Virginia’s governor announced that the state will adopt a cap-and-trade program to limit carbon emissions from the power sector, and California’s cap-and-trade program was upheld in state court. Iowa’s largest utility announced that it plans to get about 90 percent of its energy from renewables by the mid-2020s, and Michigan’s second-largest utility announced that it will cut its carbon emissions by more than 80 percent by 2050. California and Ohio adopted standards to limit leaks of natural gas from oil and gas infrastructure. In New York, a new program began offering $2,000 incentives for electric vehicles. Many of these states continue to advance clean energy policies with bipartisan support, as they will create jobs, lower energy costs, and clean the air.
The combined state and federal action, on net, confirms what power market experts know: clean energy progress cannot be stopped. The jobs are in energy efficiency, solar and wind, and the utility industry knows clean energy is its future. More state progress to continue removing barriers for clean energy will be key to success. And the international community should still have hope that the U.S. will do its part to address this global problem, as the number of states, businesses, and cities committed to climate action continues to grow by the day.