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April 15, 2021
Contact: Stephen Read

New Report Highlights Key Role of States, State AGs in Driving U.S. Climate Progress

In advance of new U.S. target under Paris Agreement, report draws three key lessons from success of state-level efforts to reduce GHG emissions in absence of federal leadership over past four years.

Washington, D.C. — A new report released by the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center at NYU School of Law highlights crucial legislative and regulatory efforts at the state level in recent years that have been the primary source of progress in the United States’ response to the climate crisis. The report, entitled Follow the Leaders: States Set Path to Accelerate U.S. Progress on Climate, is being released ahead of U.S. Climate Action Week and Earth Day, when the Biden administration is expected to announce the United States’ new Nationally Determined Contribution (2021 NDC) under the Paris Agreement.

As the report describes, there are three important lessons to be drawn from the success of state-level efforts over the past four years to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the absence of federal leadership. These lessons should help guide a newly invigorated federal response to the climate crisis, as well as continued efforts at the state and local levels:
Lesson 1 — States can and do serve as models of how the United States as a whole can reduce GHG emissions. The 2021 NDC should explicitly acknowledge the leadership of states that have established ambitious GHG emissions reduction targets and implemented programs to achieve those goals. The 2021 NDC should also recognize that the success of these state-level targets and programs can be replicated broadly.
Lesson 2 — The United States’ 2021 NDC will need to rely, at least in part, on the commitments and progress states have made over the last four years. Recent analysis has shown that even in the absence of federal action, states and other non-federal actors have the potential to reduce U.S. GHG emissions by 37% relative to 2005 levels by 2030. Another recent report found that with robust federal government involvement, the U.S. could reduce its GHG emissions by 50% relative to 2005 levels by 2030. The 2021 NDC must recognize this potential, as meeting the United States’ responsibilities under the Paris Agreement will require states to continue making substantial and sustained progress on their own climate commitments.
Lesson 3 — The federal government should take steps to actively support states as they continue working to reduce their GHG emissions. The Biden administration should strongly consider a range of measures, including: issuing an executive order directing federal agencies to affirmatively support states’ efforts; aligning federal grant programs and permitting processes to meet states’ needs; and appointing a dedicated coordinator to give a voice to state and local governments’ needs and concerns in the administration’s climate policy deliberations.
In addition to these recommendations, the report also includes a survey of existing state-level climate commitments and progress made to date. The State Impact Center is convening a group of state attorneys general for a virtual event during U.S. Climate Action Week to discuss the role of states and state AGs in U.S. climate progress — more details to follow.


About the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center
The State Energy & Environmental Impact Center (State Impact Center) is a non-partisan Center at the NYU School of Law that is dedicated to helping state attorneys general fight against regulatory rollbacks and advocate for clean energy, climate change, and environmental values and protections. For more information, visit our website