We Created a Climate Toolkit for State Legislators: Here’s Why

October 2020

We need to pass bold climate policy in every state in the US within the next 10 years. We don’t have time for every state to reinvent the wheel – or for every state legislator to figure out how to navigate this complex landscape on their own. ‍

State legislatures play a critical role in advancing climate justice and the clean energy economy. But despite their importance, state legislatures don’t get the public attention or support that they deserve. Every state legislator should have a proactive climate plan at their fingertips, and they should know exactly where they can go for additional resources and support.‍

That’s why we created the “Building Blocks of State Climate Policy” – a toolkit of best-practice examples, resources and model legislation designed to help state legislators put forth bold, equitable climate plans across the US. ‍

State Legislators Need Resources 

We need to cut emissions across every sector of the economy quickly – in a way that advances equity and creates jobs. That’s a difficult task for part-time state legislators balancing many other legislative and professional priorities. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the annual salary for state lawmakers is $38,370 which is well below the annual salary for everyday Americans. They tend to have only 1-2 legislative aides on staff, and usually don’t have a background in climate or clean energy. State lawmakers are on the frontlines of tackling climate change, but they don’t have the resources and support they need. ‍

Furthermore, many states have been on “climate defense” for too long. Climate conversations have been bogged down in correcting the record on false misconceptions and bad faith attacks – rather than selling the benefits of the clean energy transition or creating bold policy visions for the path forward. The Building Blocks of State Climate Policy outlines what these proactive state climate policy agendas can look like – drawing upon examples of best-practice climate policy already passed in “purple” states around the US. In doing so, it provides a toolkit for action and builds legislators’ confidence that states can be at the vanguard of the climate movement – while also creating jobs and advancing justice. In many places, they already are.‍

States Play a Critical Role in Advancing Climate Action – Or Holding it Back‍

States have a lot of power to reduce emissions, create jobs, and prioritize environmental justice. They can determine how much of their electricity will come from renewable sources; create market conditions that allow solar energy to thrive; set clean transportation standards; and ensure that equity is at the center of natural disaster preparedness and response. ‍

For example: one of the most powerful tools in state legislatures’ climate toolbox is the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). RPS policies set requirements for renewable energy, and have been the largest driver of clean energy growth in the US to date. In Nevada, SB 358, which requires 50% renewable energy by 2030, passed with unanimous bipartisan support – and will pave the creation of 11,170 clean energy jobs. 14 states have already passed 100% clean energy policies. States can and must play a leadership role in the clean energy transition.‍

But, states’ large influence over the clean energy transition – and their nexus between local and federal governance – means they can also block progress. Right now, 13 states have either passed or are considering legislation to ban building electrification requirements, which is a prerequisite for powering buildings with renewable energy. And states’ role in allocating federal disaster relief funding can either exacerbate injustice or work to address it. As one stark example, after Hurricane Harvey hit the Gulf in 2017, a well-to-do white neighborhood in Texas received $64,000 per affected resident, while affected residents in a nearby majority-minority neighborhood received an average of $84. ‍

State legislators must play a huge role in tackling the climate crisis. There are policy solutions to decarbonize our economy, create good jobs, and ensure equity. We’re ensuring legislative champions have these solutions at their fingertips. ‍

Turning Research into Action‍

State legislators must understand their role in addressing the climate crisis and advancing environmental justice, and they must have easy access to resources for action. Our Building Blocks of State Climate Policy toolkit meets legislators needs by pulling model legislation and best-practice examples from states across the US all into one place – organized in a framework that provides context for the full scope of necessary action.‍

We hope you’ll share the Building Blocks of State Climate Policy with legislators and advocates in your networks in states across the US. Let us know how you use it at info@climatecabinet.org.