US Mitigation Policy: A Four-State Comparison

Climate mitigation policy varies significantly between states in the USA, with a correlation between political alignment and policy strength. We ranked two Democratic and two Republican states with a criteria system to measure their climate policies. There was a significant difference between blue and red states and no universally adopted climate policy among the four states: Wyoming, California, Texas, and Michigan. Michigan climbed in the ranking due to recent legislation passed by a Democratic majority, including climate-neutral emissions by 2050, but is still behind California. 

by Reinout Debergh & Nathan Kin

Whilst efforts at the federal level suffer from policy gridlocks and rollbacks, there has been a shift to the state level, with each state government having its own judicial, legislative, and executive branches [1, 2]. Last November, Michigan adopted a historic climate package, making it a leader in the clean energy economy according to NGO Ceres [3]. But how does Michigan compare to other states? A scorecard developed at the Northeast-Midwest Institute will be used to score mitigation efforts. It is based on ten criteria,  each scored as one if the criterion is met and zero otherwise [4]. This article will look at four states: Wyoming, California, Texas, and Michigan. This choice was made to have two Democratic and two Republican states while also having a state from the top, middle and bottom of a recent US state climate policy ranking [5].

Figure 1. Scores by the authors and ref [4]. 

The ten criteria are: 

  1. GHG reduction target for 2030
  2. Carbon pricing in place
  3. Mandatory Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS)
  4. Adoption of California’s zero-emission vehicle standards
  5. Having an environmental justice office/interagency
  6. Member of US Climate Alliance
  7. Climate action plan
  8. Climate task force present
  9. Green bank
  10. Attempts to include climate change in the curriculum via legislation

Table 1.

StateCarbon pricingMandatory RPSZero emission vehicles standardsEnvironmental justice officesUS Climate AllianceClimate Action PlanClimate task forceGreen bankClimate change curriculumTOTAL SCORE
WY000000000.50.5
CA11111111110
TX00.500000011.5
MI010.5111110.58

Wyoming (Republican trifecta)

Wyoming scored very poorly with 0.5/10 overall. The half point is based on a report that scored  Wyoming the highest in the country on addressing climate change in public schools [6]. Despite this, there have been no legislative efforts to enshrine climate change education in the curriculum, and efforts by conservatives to promote climate denial still exist [7]. None of the other criteria are met [8-15]. While the governor pledged to make the state carbon-negative, there is no timeline nor is it binding [16].

California (Democratic trifecta)

Meeting all criteria, California scored a perfect 10. The state has set a legally binding target of 40% emission reductions by 2030 (relative to 1990 levels) and a non-binding target of 48% reduction. However the latter will be difficult to meet [17]. One measure to achieve its target is the cap-and-trade system which covers about 75% of the state’s emissions [9]. Its carbon price in the final quarter of 2023 was 38.73 USD (35.33 euros) [18]. Another measure is its renewable portfolio standard (RPS) which sets binding targets (Figure 2), thereby incentivizing the uptake of renewable energy [19].

In addition, the state’s stringent car regulations will contribute not only to reduced emissions but also to better air quality. From 2035 onwards, all new passenger cars, trucks and SUVs sold in California must be zero-emission vehicles [20]. Its two green banks* will contribute towards reducing emissions through the financing of green initiatives [21]. Moreover, California’s  Office of Environmental Justice, established in 2021, will help to “protect people and communities that endure a disproportionate share of environmental pollution and public health hazards” [22]. Last September, a bill was adopted in the state requiring grades 1-12 to include coursework on climate change [23].

Texas (Republican trifecta)

Texas scored 1.5 out of 10 and has a Republican trifecta in power [24]. In the last two decades, hydraulic fracturing, or fracking as it is commonly referred to, led to an oil and gas boom. The state is a hub for the extraction, refining and shipping of fossil fuels, accounting for 32% of oil and gas refining emissions and 29% of fossil fuel emissions, excluding coal mining, in the USA [25]. The largest source of emissions on the planet is the Permian Basin in West Texas [26]. 

An  “all-of-the-above” strategy for energy is in place and thus both fossil fuel emissions as well as renewable energy capacity are trending upwards. The state achieved its goal of installing 10,000 MW of new renewable energy by 2025, fifteen years ahead of schedule, but did not set new goals [27]. Installed and potential wind capacity in Texas (2023, Q1) is the highest of any state [28].

Texas only narrowly meets the criteria for including climate change in the curriculum, largely ignoring it as recently as 2020 [29]. Although human influence on climate change is taught in public schools, many textbooks were rejected by the Texas Board of Education in late 2023 due to climate change messaging [30]. 

Michigan (Democratic trifecta)

Michigan’s score is 8 out of 10, which is largely a result of the historic 100% clean energy and climate bill passed in late 2023. The bill will bring $8 billion in funds from the US government’s Inflation Reduction Act and create 160,000 jobs [31]. For the first time since 1984, the state has a left-leaning majority leadership in the governorship, house and senate (Democratic trifecta) [32]. 

Michigan is a manufacturing hub with reduction targets for GHG emissions and a green bank [31, 33]. Greenhouse gas emissions dropped 18% between 2023 compared to 2005 levels after Michigan joined the US Climate Alliance [34]. The state established an Environmental Justice Office in 2020 and in 2023 updated the optional climate change curriculum [35, 36]. 

Michigan’s RPS focuses on expanding renewable energy sources, improving energy efficiency, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions through the most reasonable means [37]. Michigan’s Climate Action Plan commits to carbon neutrality by 2050 and net negative emissions thereafter [38]. 

Conclusion

Using the Northeast-Midwest Institute scorecard of 10 criteria for mitigating GHG emissions, Wyoming, California, Texas, and Michigan have 0.5, 10, 1.5, and 8 points respectively. There are no universally met criteria; climate goals and educational requirements are highly varied across the United States. Total GHG emissions and per-capita emissions vary greatly, see Figure 3.

Figure 3. Greenhouse gas emissions in 2022, 10,071 individual emissions sources over a 20-year period; the four states contributed 1.7 of 8.8 Gt CO?eq, 19% of total emissions from the USA [25]; 1 metric gigaton (Gt) = 1000 metric megatons (Mt); adapted from Climate TRACE [26].

Although each state permits teaching climate change topics to children in grade school, Wyoming and Michigan do not require climate education [3, 4]. Although climate change education is required in Texas, many standardized educational resources available in US states were rejected by the Texas State Board of Education based on climate-change messaging, so choices are limited [27].

California and Michigan are the only two states with emission reduction targets, aiming for 100% renewable energy by 2045 and 2050, respectively [15, 38]. California meets all ten criteria, the only one of the four states with carbon pricing and universal zero-emissions vehicle standards [14, 16]. In conclusion, Michigan ranks behind California and ahead of Wyoming and Texas on climate action. For further reading on climate policy, Climatalk’s climate adaptation publications can be found here

* 1. Infrastructure Bank (IBank) and 2. California Alternative Energy and Advanced Transportation Financing Authority (CAEATFA) & California Pollution Control Financing Authority (CPCFA)

References:

[1] Basseches, J. A., Bromley-Trujillo, R., Boykoff, M. T., Culhane, T., Hall, G., Healy, N., … & Stephens, J. C. (2022). Climate policy conflict in the US states: a critical review and way forward. Climatic Change, 170(3-4), 32. doi: 10.1007/s10584-022-03319-w. [2] State & Local Government, The White House, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/1600/state-and-local-government#:~:text=Legislative%20Branch,legislation%20and%20articles%20of%20impeachment, accessed on 29/01/2024.[3] Executive Office of the Governor, Governor Whitmer Signs Historic Clean Energy & Climate Action Package, https://www.michigan.gov/whitmer/news/press-releases/2023/11/28/governor-whitmer-signs-historic-clean-energy-climate-action-package#:~:text=100%25%20Clean%20Energy%20Standard,-Senate%20Bill%20271&text=By%202040%2C%20Michigan%20will%20produce,and%20water%20for%20future%20generations, accessed on 13/12/2023. [4] Cha, E., Scorecard of Climate Change Remediation Policies in Northeast-Midwest States, Northeast-Midwest Institute, https://www.nemw.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/02/Report-and-Scorecard-on-Climate-Change-Policy-in-the-Northeast-and-Midwest-States.pdf, accessed 13/12/2023.[5] Anaya, A., US States Ranked by Climate Action, Complex Effects, https://www.complexeffects.com/p/us-states-ranked-by-climate-action, accessed 13/12/2023. [6] Making the grade? How State Public School Science Standards Address Climate Change, National Center for Science Education and the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund, https://climategrades.org/#findings, accessed 13/12/2023.[7] Conservative Think Tank Sends Wyoming Teachers Textbook Challenging ‘Climate Crisis’ Narrative, Cowboy State Daily, https://cowboystatedaily.com/2023/02/07/conservative-think-tank-sends-wyoming-teachers-textbook-challenging-climate-crisis-narrative/, accessed 13/12/2023. [8]  U.S. State Greenhouse Gas Emissions Targets, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, https://www.c2es.org/document/greenhouse-gas-emissions-targets/, accessed 13/12/2023.[9] U.S. State Carbon Pricing Policies, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, https://www.c2es.org/document/us-state-carbon-pricing-policies/, accessed 13/12/2023.[10] State Renewable Portfolio Standards and Goals, National Conference of State Legislatures, https://www.ncsl.org/energy/state-renewable-portfolio-standards-and-goals, accessed 13/12/2023.[11] States that have Adopted California’s Vehicle Regulations, California Air Resources Board, https://ww2.arb.ca.gov/our-work/programs/advanced-clean-cars-program/states-have-adopted-californias-vehicle-regulations, accessed 13/12/2023.[12] State and Federal Environmental Justice Efforts, National Conference of State Legislatures, https://www.ncsl.org/environment-and-natural-resources/state-and-federal-environmental-justice-efforts, accessed on 13/12/2023. [13] Members, U.S. Climate Alliance, https://usclimatealliance.org/members/, accessed on 13/12/2023.[14] U.S. State Climate Action Plans, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, https://www.c2es.org/document/climate-action-plans/#:~:text=Climate%20action%20plans%20generally%20include,and%20economic%20and%20social%20goals, accessed 13/12/2023.[15] https://www.ncelenviro.org/app/uploads/2023/01/CE-Green-Bank-Issue-Brief.pdf, accessed 13/12/2023. [16] Plautz, J., What Wyoming shows about going ‘carbon negative’ in coal country, E&E News, https://www.eenews.net/articles/what-wyoming-shows-about-going-carbon-negative-in-coal-country/, accessed 13/12/2023. [17] Tigue, K., California and New York Could Miss Their 2030 Climate Targets. Could Permitting Reform Help?, Inside Climate News, https://insideclimatenews.org/news/04082023/california-and-new-york-could-miss-their-2030-climate-targets-could-permitting-reform-help/, accessed 14/12/2023. [18] https://ww2.arb.ca.gov/our-work/programs/cap-and-trade-program/program-data/cap-and-trade-program-data-dashboard, accessed 14/12/2023.  [19] 2022 Scoping Plan For Achieving Carbon Neutrality, California Air Resources Board, https://ww2.arb.ca.gov/sites/default/files/2022-11/2022-sp.pdf, accessed 14/12/2023.  [20] Advanced Clean Cars Program, California Air Resources Board, https://ww2.arb.ca.gov/our-work/programs/advanced-clean-cars-program/about, accessed 14/09/2023.  [21] California, Green Bank Movement, https://www.greenbankmovement.org/california, accessed 14/12/2023.  [22] Environmental Justice, State of California Department Of Justice: Office of The Attorney General, https://oag.ca.gov/environment/justice, accessed 14/12/2023.  [23] Branch, G., Legislation to support climate change education passes in California, National Center for Science Education, https://ncse.ngo/legislation-support-climate-change-education-passes-california, accessed 14/09/2023.[24] Texas State Legislature, https://ballotpedia.org/Texas_State_Legislature, accessed 23/01/2024.[25] US Oil and Gas Refining, https://climatetrace.org/explore/oil-and-gas-refining-co2e20-2022-united-usa, accessed 22/01/2024.[26] Climate TRACE [More Details, bottom right of webpage], https://climatetrace.org/explore, accessed 22/01/2024.[27] Texas Renewable Energy Report, https://gov.texas.gov/uploads/files/business/renewableenergy-report.pdf, accessed 22/01/2024.[28] WINDExchange US Installed and Potential Wind Power Capacity and Generation, https://windexchange.energy.gov/maps-data/321, accessed 22/01/2024.[29] Making the Grade? How State Public School Science Standards Address Climate Change, https://www.texastribune.org/2023/11/17/texas-climate-textbooks-education-SBOE/, accessed 17/01/2024.[30] Texas board rejects many science textbooks over climate change messaging, https://www.texastribune.org/2023/11/17/texas-climate-textbooks-education-SBOE/, accessed 23/01/2024.[31] Michigan State Legislature, https://ballotpedia.org/2024_Michigan_legislative_session, accessed 17/01/2024.[32] 2024 Michigan Legislative Session, https://ballotopedia.org/2024_Michigan_legislative_session, accessed 18/05/2024.[33] Michigan Saves, https://michigansaves.org/about-us/, accessed 16/01/2024.[34] Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer Joins U.S. Climate Alliance, https://usclimatealliance.org/press-releases/michigan-joins-alliance-feb-2019/, accessed 16/01/2024.[35] Michigan Advisory Council, https://www.michigan.gov/egle/about/groups/macej, accessed 23/01/2024.[36] EGLE Releases New Environmental Education Curriculum in 2023, https://www.michigan.gov/egle/newsroom/mi-environment/2023/12/14/egle-releases-new-environmental-education-curriculum-in-2023, accessed 23/01/2024.[37] Michigan Senate Bill No. 438, https://www.legislature.mi.gov/documents/2015-2016/publicact/htm/2016-PA-0342.htm, accessed 17/01/2024.[38] Michigan Healthy Climate Plan, https://www.michigan.gov/egle/about/organization/climate-and-energy/mi-healthy-climate-plan, accessed 17/01/2024.
Categories North America

Tell us what you think!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.