To Help US Reach Climate Goals, Front-Runner States Are Setting Examples for Others to Follow
First-of-their-kind scorecards show progress and pathways to climate goals for six leading states
While we await clean energy legislation in Congress, and with midterm elections fast upon us, there has never been a better time to look to the US states for climate leadership. Already, many states are beginning to champion the investments and policies that will define climate leadership in the coming years and benefit public health, the economy, and emissions reductions in the decisive decade leading to 2030. With less than 10 years left for the United States to cut emissions in half, states are a critical vehicle for driving the nation forward.
Today, RMI is releasing first-of-their-kind state climate scorecards to show the progress of six large “front-runner” states in reducing climate-warming emissions. Front-runner states have already demonstrated their commitment to climate action through policies focused on clean electricity, building electrification, transitioning to electric vehicles, and other key sectors. We identified Colorado, California (full analysis coming soon), Illinois, New Jersey, New York, and Washington State as the largest front-runner states due to their large populations and emissions footprints.
These states are a big deal when it comes to climate action. Together, they represent about one-fifth of the United States’ 2021 emissions. If these six states can get on track to cut emissions in half by 2030, they would reduce 2030 emissions by close to 200 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent on their own. Bringing down emissions also delivers immediate public health benefits by reducing harmful pollution and can accelerate economic development and job growth through new clean energy projects, clean technology manufacturing, and more. As these scorecards show, states are already implementing many of the flagship solutions we need to start securing a clean, prosperous zero-carbon future for all. Now we need to accelerate and scale these solutions across the entire nation.
What’s in the State Scorecards?
These scorecards provide:
- A clear look at the progress to date in these front-runner states on climate and clean energy — as well as what’s still needed.
What makes these states front-runners:
- Track record of action. These states have made strong commitments to tackle climate change and have already started to execute with climate-forward executive and legislative actions and policies.
- Ability to set the pace. As mentioned above, these are states with large populations and a significant share of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. As such, they are in a unique position to help the United States reach its climate goals while boosting local economies, public health, and resilience to extreme weather. Their geographic and economic diversity also demonstrate that climate and clean energy progress can have far-reaching support and benefits.
How we measured progress:
- Across four major sectors of the economy — electricity, transportation, buildings, and industry — we developed climate-aligned targets that will support cutting economy-wide emissions in half by 2030.
- Using the Energy Policy Simulator for states, developed by RMI and Energy Innovation, we developed a detailed picture of each state’s current progress on climate and where their current policies will take them by 2030. Current policy includes legally binding measures that have been implemented; current policy does not, in most cases, include impacts of regulatory proceedings that are currently in progress. Our modeling shows both significant progress and significant work ahead for each state.
- In addition to emissions reductions, we identified progress metrics that track what’s driving the reductions, such as electric vehicle sales and methane reductions in the oil and gas sector.
These states are making big progress and seeing the benefits. Some recent highlights:
- In Colorado, transformative transportation solutions are connecting communities via cleaner, more efficient travel. A new bus system connecting cities in the state has cut Colorado’s annual emissions by 460,000 tons of carbon, the equivalent of taking 100,000 cars off state roads.
- In Illinois, customers in Chicago and its suburbs will see a $1 billion break on electricity bills as a direct result of the state’s Clean Energy and Jobs Act — at a time when other states are seeing up to 85 percent increases in electricity rates due to soaring natural gas prices.
- In New Jersey, investments in offshore wind are already paying dividends, with the growing supply chain for offshore wind creating jobs and spurring investment in coastal communities.
- In New York, with the help of cities such as Ithaca and New York City, the state is leading the charge on building decarbonization, with nearly $5 billion committed to efficiency and electrification through 2025, and state legislation under consideration that would require all-electric new construction to reduce emissions and protect public health.
- In 2021, Washington became the latest state to adopt a cap-and-invest system for driving down emissions in nearly every corner of the economy. The state’s recent Move Ahead Washington legislation has laid out spending priorities for revenues from the cap-and-invest program, committing $3 billion to transit investments in the state that will expand alternatives to car travel and provide more mobility options for low- and middle-income households.
A Marathon — and a Sprint
The progress to date is a direct result of the people who helped lead the way — voters, advocates, policymakers, and clean energy innovators. These six states have shown they are already powerful players in the race to reach climate alignment. Now is the time to ensure this progress is preserved, expanded, and accelerated.
The reality of more extreme weather events, grid reliability issues, and the skyrocketing costs of dependence on fossil fuels only stresses our need to act now. With all eyes on the finish line, RMI will continue working with state administrations and partner organizations to serve California, Colorado, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, and Washington as they continue this all-important race.