Our Best Weapon in the Fight Against Climate Change? Strong Climate Laws

Climate change was the biggest story of 2018. Climate solutions should dominate in the year to come.

Greg Cunningham | @GregCLF

In the face of the Trump administration’s continued attempts to roll back regulations aimed at curbing climate change, state and local governments must step in. In 2019, it’s essential that we make real progress at a local level to lower polluting emissions. The science is clear: If we don’t collectively cut our climate-damaging emissions to zero by 2050, our health, our economy, and our children’s future will suffer.

CLF has long been at the forefront of pushing for strong climate laws – and we’re doubling down in the years to come. Our advocates are pushing New England leaders to turn climate pledges into binding laws and then get to work to implement them. Strong state laws that slash climate-damaging emissions and promote local clean energy solutions can protect their people, safeguard their environments, and bolster their local economies.

The Time for Action is Now

The opportunity to drastically reduce our emissions and avert climate disaster is fast closing on us, according to a report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Given this urgency, it is essential that we all work together to build a better, more resilient future.

Climate change and its devastating impacts are already affecting us here in New England. From more severe storms that flood homes and businesses to deadly heat waves that threaten the health of children and the elderly, New England’s people, environment, and economy are all feeling climate change’s effects. And, according to the Fourth National Climate Assessment released late last year, the public health costs and economic losses could number in the hundreds of billions of dollars in the Northeast alone.

The federal government’s failure to protect its citizens means it’s up to state and local leaders to commit to climate action on their own.

New England Is Stepping Up – Slowly

Local groups like CLF and our allies have already stepped up to push for positive change, and some local governments have followed suit. Last September, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court recognized the importance of taking action against climate change and upheld the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act, a major climate law that requires and directs the state’s actions to reduce emissions, such as forcing power generators to drastically cut their climate-damaging emissions. Then in May, Connecticut passed an energy bill that increased the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard – requiring utilities to purchase more clean energy – and launched a shared renewable energy program aimed at low-income residents. And in March 2017, Rhode Island announced a goal to reach 1,000 MW of clean, renewable energy by 2020.

But simply upholding existing laws and announcing goals isn’t enough. We must act more boldly and with greater urgency to avert climate catastrophe. In 2017, CLF launched our New England for Paris campaign after President Trump walked away from the Paris Climate Accord – the international agreement that all nations will reduce their climate-damaging emissions by 2050. Trump’s action prompted hundreds of local leaders – from mayors to governors to businesses – to fill the federal void by committing their cities, states, and companies to the agreement. But with recent reports highlighting just how little time we have left, we need to move faster.

Local Leaders Must Implement Strong Climate Laws – Immediately

We – local leaders with the help of environmental groups like CLF – need to put New England on a clear path to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050, with milestones between now and then to ensure we stay on track. Every state in New England should have a strong climate law on the books. These laws should mandate economy-wide emissions reductions and offer a clear way to implement and achieve them.

The approach will undoubtedly differ state to state, as every part of our region is starting in a different place, but the end goal must be the same. Massachusetts passed its binding Global Warming Solutions Act in 2008, while Maine is just now coming out from under the heel of climate change-denying former Governor LePage. So while Massachusetts works on the next iteration of its Global Warming Solutions Act and Connecticut advances new policies and regulations to ensure they meet or exceed their goals, Maine must break new ground with binding climate legislation. New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont, too, must pass their own laws mandating cuts in emissions.

CLF is fighting to make this a reality. We’re transforming our New England for Paris Campaign into a Zero by 50 Campaign to eliminate climate-damaging emissions in New England by 2050. With the help of local governments, partners and allies, and leaders within our communities, we can put New England on a clear, enforceable path to zero emissions. This won’t be easy, but there is a clear path to success that reaps improved health, economic opportunity, and thriving communities along the way. We’ve never backed down from a challenge – and we don’t intend to start now.

Helping New England Battle Climate Change

Achieving climate success demands that we’re all doing our part. Whether it’s advocating for a meaningful climate law by calling your local representative, standing with us against Big Gas’s efforts to make New England more dependent on their polluting fuel, or demanding that more of our power come from clean energy sources, we all have the opportunity to push for change. Because while time is short to turn things around, the fight is far from over.

Join CLF in this climate fight by taking action on issues you care about and signing up to receive CLF emails so you’ll be the first to know when and how you can make a difference.

Focus Areas

Climate Change

About the CLF Blog

The views and opinions expressed on this blog do not necessarily represent the opinions or positions of Conservation Law Foundation, our boards, or our supporters.