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Climate successes from the states

New York climate bill

Climate successes from the states

By Jamie DeMarco, CCL State-Level Carbon Pricing Coordinator

We are all looking forward to the day when we can safely meet with your community and lawmakers again, working for climate solutions that we urgently need. But during this time, I encourage you not to lose sight of the incredible accomplishments we’ve already made during this session of Congress. 

In the 116th Congress, Citizens’ Climate Lobby volunteers have lobbied 80 representatives to introduce or support the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, which will reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 40% in 12 years. They’ve generated more than 1,500 endorsements for the legislation nationwide, showing broad support for this climate policy. 

And in state capitols across the country, Citizens’ Climate Lobby has helped enact real climate policies that are reducing emissions. So far we have done this in Maryland, Washington D.C., New York, and Oregon, with more victories to come. Let’s take a look back at these successes!

Maryland climate billMaryland mandates clean electricity

In 2019, Maryland enacted the Clean Energy Jobs Act, which requires all electricity in the state to come from renewable sources by 2030 and made historic investments in clean energy businesses owned by women and people of color. It was passed by a Democratic legislature and the Republican governor chose not to veto the bill, instead allowing it to become law. It is the strongest clean energy standard ever passed with bipartisan control of the government. In fact, the bill was going to fail, but it was saved by a surprise vote of support from a Republican lawmaker.

Before I came to work at Citizens’ Climate Lobby, I helped found the campaign to pass that legislation. Once I was hired by CCL, I brought our organizational strength to help get it passed. I lobbied lawmakers about the bill almost daily, helped build a coalition of over 650 supporting organizations, and generated a steady drum beat of constituent calls.

DC climate bill

D.C. tackles transportation and clean energy standards

In December of 2018, Washington D.C. passed the Clean Energy D.C. Act, which required the district to get 100% clean electricity by 2032, including requiring D.C. buses to go all electric,  and enacted energy efficiency standards for existing buildings. The bill also enacted a small price on carbon. 

Citizens’ Climate Lobby was an active part of that campaign for more than two years. When the bill had to pass out of a difficult committee, we organized in the district of the committee’s chairman. We got a majority of the Advisory Neighborhood Commissions in his district to endorse the bill. Plus, we had multiple constituents call his office every day for two months. Our advocacy and grassroots pressure was critical to the passage of this legislation.

New York climate billNew York commits to net neutral emissions

In June of 2019, New York state passed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. This legislation not only achieves a 100% clean electricity grid, but it also requires the entire state to have economy wide net neutral greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. It also requires that 35% of all climate investments must be spent on historically disadvantaged communities.

Citizens’ Climate Lobby organized regularly recurring lobby days in Albany, New York. We met with every single state senator and lobbied them in support of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. In the final days of the New York legislative session, it seemed like the bill was destined to fail because the governor and advocates could not reach a compromise. CCL stepped in, and helped offer compromise language which was very similar to what got adopted. When he signed the bill, Governor Cuomo invited CCL members to the bill signing ceremony to thank them for helping to get the bill passed.

Oregon governor Kate Brown

Oregon’s executive order

In March 2020, Oregon’s governor issued the nation’s strongest executive action on climate change. Through a suite of climate policies, it aims to achieve an 80% reduction below 1990 levels by 2050. As a member of Renew Oregon, Citizens’ Climate helped create the political will for this executive order by advocating relentlessly for the Clean Energy Jobs bill. When that legislation failed to pass, the governor issued this executive order to fill the climate policy gap.

Citizens’ Climate Lobby members have consistently provided key grassroots capacity to build support for Clean Energy Jobs across the state, especially in more difficult to reach rural areas. For example, 20% of all the volunteers who attended the lobby day for the Clean Energy Jobs Act were Citizens’ Climate Lobby members. These volunteers came from 35 of the state’s 60 legislative districts, showing broad statewide support for the bill. In another instance, Citizens’ Climate Lobby received word from the Renew Oregon Coalition that they could not find a single constituent in OR district 48. Within 24 hours, Citizens’ Climate found a volunteer ready to act. This volunteer attended a town hall and met with the OR district 48 delegate’s spouse one-on-one about the bill.

What’s next

We are building steady, inevitable progress toward a national bipartisan solution to climate change. Along the way, we are helping to enact meaningful climate policies across the country. None of the policies we have helped pass are carbon fee and dividend, but by building a patchwork of state solutions, we build the political will for a unified national solution. We have more ongoing campaigns in other states across the country, and I can’t wait to see what policies we will help to enact next. 

Jamie DeMarco is CCL’s State-Level Carbon Pricing Coordinator.