Report sees 6 states as climate battlegrounds in 2018

Source: Arianna Skibell, E&E News reporter • Posted: Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Since President Trump announced his intent to leave the Paris Agreement and roll back the Clean Power Plan, more states have stepped up to pledge independent action on curbing global warming.

New York, California and Washington state launched the U.S. Climate Alliance, which has since gained support from nine other states and the territory of Puerto Rico. An even broader coalition was formed this summer called We Are Still In, with a number of states and hundreds of cities, businesses and universities promising to meet carbon-cutting targets set under the international accord.

Several competitive races in 2017 and 2018 will likely force political candidates to decide whether they are committed to a global movement to take climate action, according to a report released today by the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

“Voters will have a choice to elect progressive governors who can change their state’s direction on climate, support the goals of the Paris Agreement, and lead where the president has so far failed,” according to Luke Bassett, CAP associate director of domestic energy and environment policy and former Department of Energy employee, and Christy Goldfuss, vice president of energy and environmental policy and former director of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

In the report, the two analyzed carbon emissions data in states holding gubernatorial races in 2017 and 2018. New Jersey and Virginia will see races in 2017 and 36 other states in 2018.

The two ranked states with the highest energy-related greenhouse gas emissions and zeroed in on races that would likely be competitive.

Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio and Wisconsin emerged as likely climate battleground states.

“A change in leadership in New Jersey, Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Michigan to one with a strong focus on reducing carbon pollution would send a clear message to the White House and the rest of the world that American voters support climate action,” the report says.

If these states join the U.S. Climate Alliance, they will approximately double the amount of carbon emissions covered by the coalition’s pollution-reduction goals. And should those states meet or exceed their goals under the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, they would avert an amount of carbon pollution equivalent to taking 18 million cars off the road for a year, they said.

“Progressive governors will have many opportunities to implement new policies in their states that reduce carbon pollution and grow the economy,” Bassett said in a statement. “The greatest opportunity they have now is to prove to voters that they will choose a new direction on climate change and reject the vision shared by President Trump, his administration, and congressional allies.”

The report summarizes the state of climate action in battleground states and highlights opportunities for new initiatives.

For example, in New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie (R) decided to withdraw his state from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in 2011. By reversing that decision, a new governor could affect the broader electricity market in New Jersey and add more clean energy to the mix, the report says. About 80 percent of voters in the Garden State are in support of regulating carbon dioxide.

In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott (R) banned state officials from using the terms “climate change” and “global warming” in 2015. Florida’s carbon emissions rank second-highest among state electric power sectors, the report notes. Frequent extreme weather events and sea-level rise connected to a warming planet have begun to affect property values. A new governor could harness potential solar energy in the Sunshine State by creating policies like a renewable portfolio standard, the report stated.

And in Ohio, Gov. John Kasich, former Republican presidential candidate, has recently broken from his party to veto bills that attack his state’s renewable portfolio standard. Still, the report notes, Kasich has often stalled clean energy progress in his state. Ohio has extensive natural gas resources and has been expanding production, which could lead to more methane pollution. A new governor could ensure a reduction in methane leaks and move the state beyond the uncertain policymaking of the current governor, the report states.

Voters in the six states included in the report can have an impact by voicing their desire for new leadership and greater ambition on climate change, the authors said.

“President Trump and his Republican allies are looking the other way while the world’s climate heats up,” they wrote.

“But voters now have a choice to elect leaders who will seize the opportunities presented by the clean energy economy — opportunities that the rest of the world has already embraced that will not only offer economic benefits but also help protect the nation’s clean air and climate,” they wrote.