The Georgetown Climate Center works with state and federal officials, academics and an array of stakeholders to strengthen state and federal climate partnerships in the United States. These partnerships seek to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase efficiency, promote clean energy jobs, protect consumers, enable adaptation, and bridge the gap between climate and transportation planning.
Recognizing that climate change is a global problem that requires action at the sub-national, national and international levels, the Center strives to maximize the impact U.S. policymakers can have by building on the strengths of each level of government.
States have led the way in promoting energy efficiency, establishing renewable energy standards, and attracting private sector investments in clean energy. The tradition of U.S. environmental regulation is a “cooperative federalism” model where early state action often paves the way for stronger federal programs. State mobile source standards for greenhouse gases ultimately led to new federal vehicle standards now endorsed by automakers, environmentalists, and regulators.
Rather than create conflict, state actions can supplement federal efforts and increase cost effectiveness. Some long-standing state programs -- like the promotion of energy efficiency -- reduce the cost of achieving federal emissions targets. Others -- like consumer and environmental protections -- underscore the long and active oversight role that states have played.
In order to compete with China and the rest of the world on clean energy, the U.S. must promote rather than stifle innovation. Continued state action will be needed to attract global private investments and jumpstart the clean energy economy.
It is impossible to foresee the innovative new ways states will find to reduce greenhouse gases just as state actions have led to the development of cap-and-trade programs such as the regional climate initiatives among Northeast (RGGI) and Western states (WCI).
Even post-enactment of a new federal program or regulatory action, state initiatives can buttress federal efforts and provide investment certainty in the event of implementation delays. For example, state renewable portfolio standards have provided market certainty during periods of dramatic changes in federal tax credits for renewables.
States face the serious consequences and costs of climate change, and these impacts vary across the country. States can rely on regional resources such as availability of wind and solar energy in crafting policies tailored to their unique circumstances. Climate related impacts such as heat waves, water shortages, rising sea levels, more severe storms, and increased flooding have serious economic and human impacts and require region-specific planning to adapt adequately to climate change. Both the causes and impacts of climate change defy a “one-size-fits-all” approach.