person pulling green living into a city

Measuring Up States’ Priority Climate Action Plans

States’ Priority Climate Action Plans could result in 7 percent less climate pollution from the United States by 2030

Forty-five states, plus DC and Puerto Rico, used a small portion of the $5 billion Climate Pollution Reduction Grants (CPRG) program to develop state Priority Climate Action Plans (PCAPs). For the PCAPs, the EPA required states to identify and quantify their proposed measures to reduce climate pollution. So how do a state’s proposed measures stack up against that state’s projected pollution by sector? And, if all fully implemented, how much would the proposed measures reduce pollution in the sectors in most need of action?

States approached their plans differently while setting themselves up to compete for federal funding to implement their plans. Our team of researchers across RMI, Evergreen, and Climate XChange dug into over 650 measures described in more than 6,795 pages of state PCAPs and compared the estimated impact to our projections of state pollution to find out.

Note: Reductions from Agriculture/Natural Land measures not included in total percentages on map.

Based on state-provided pollution reduction estimates, the states leading the way with measures designed to achieve the greatest percentage of pollution reduction by 2030 are Louisiana (28.6 percent), Massachusetts (21.3 percent), Maine (20.6 percent), Virginia (17.2 percent), and Delaware (17.1 percent).  Eleven states proposed and quantified measures that would reduce their total pollution over 10 percent by 2030. A few states did not quantify their PCAP measures. With Inflation Reduction Act programs and incentives, prior RMI research confirms that ambitious measures will yield substantial economic benefits beyond pollution reduction.

Note: The length of each bar reflects the corresponding sector's contributions to overall climate pollution in the state.

Many proactive states designed their most ambitious measures for their highest emitting sector. For example, in Maine, where the majority of emissions are produced by the transportation sector, the state set specific targets to deploy more electric vehicles of all sizes and types, and to make transportation system improvements that reduce the amount people drive. In Louisiana, where the majority of emissions come from industry, the state’s most substantial measure proposes enhancing energy efficiency in chemical and refining facilities and applying carbon capture, utilization, and storage.

RMI previously identified three unique strategies that each of 21 states could take to have the largest impact on emissions by 2030. When comparing state PCAP measures to the identified strategies, we find 11 of these states have PCAP measures that in some way address all three of these strategies, and 9 states address two out of three. While not all states meaningfully reduce sectoral pollution in line with these identified solution sets, some have estimated great progress by 2030. Notably for Indiana, Michigan, and Virginia, the greatest pollution abatement potential comes from using clean power to displace dirty fuels. These three states estimate approximately 30 percent reductions in pollution from the electricity sector in 2030 due to their implemented PCAP measures. Massachusetts estimated a 30 percent reduction in pollution from its building sector, which RMI had identified as the state’s top climate solution.

The single measures with the largest projected annual impact in 2030 — industrial decarbonization in Louisiana, improved building energy efficiency in North Carolina, and utility scale renewable electricity in Indiana — tended to be large because they address a high-emitting sector in that state, and the PCAP's writers chose to combine multiple actions into one measure. We also found that the pollution reductions per measure varied quite a bit when compared across sectors: in 2030, the average industrial measure would reduce almost 10 times as much climate pollution as the average waste measure.

National Implications

The EPA recommended the PCAPs focus on “near-term, high-priority, implementation-ready measures to reduce GHG pollution,” so the 650+ measures described in the PCAPs should not be interpreted as a comprehensive list of actions the state will take to reduce pollution. In addition, in order to be eligible to apply for part of the $4.3 billion in CPRG implementation grant funding for states, a state had to mention that measure in their PCAP, so some states only included measures in their PCAP for which they were seeking funding. States will next complete Comprehensive Climate Action Plans (CCAPs), due in 2025, which will include a more comprehensive list of measures and can help them more fully plan ways to achieve greater economic, pollution, and health benefits.

That being said, the measures included in the state PCAPs represent significant climate actions, and if states were to fully implement all measures in their PCAP — a big IF — it would take a meaningful bite out of US climate pollution.

Our analysis shows that states identified the most significant opportunities for pollution reduction in the industrial sector. This is notable given that both the number of measures in the industrial sector and the number of states addressing industry were much lower than for other sectors, like transportation and buildings. These industrial measures would reduce climate pollution mainly by reducing methane and fluorinated gas leakage, electrifying heat processes, using green hydrogen for high heat and feedstock, improving energy efficiency of processes, and employing carbon capture. New public policy and new private investment will be necessary to make those industrial pollution reductions a reality.

The bar chart above shows that if each state fully implements every measure described in its PCAP, there will be 7 percent less climate pollution in 2030 compared to taking none of these actions. A 7 percent reduction in emissions is equivalent to decommissioning half of all existing methane gas power plants or taking 30 percent of all gasoline cars off the road.

Over the period 2025 through 2030 the PCAPs’ measures would result in cumulatively 1,421 million fewer tons of climate pollution — and that’s without fully accounting for the possible reductions incentivized from other Inflation Reduction Act programs worth hundreds of billions of dollars.

This analysis shows what’s possible, but that 7 percent pollution reduction is not guaranteed for several reasons:

  1. Some states’ measures are contingent upon receiving federal funding that has not yet been secured, particularly the CPRG implementation grant awards. Finding alternative sources of funding (of which there are many) for those measures will be key to maintaining momentum from the PCAP process.
  2. New state laws or local policies will be necessary for some measures but are outside the direct control of the state agencies that wrote the PCAPs.
  3. In some cases, even given uncertainty in modeling, states’ methods for quantifying a measure lack a solid relationship to the actions described to achieve the measure’s estimated pollution reduction, leading to some overly optimistic estimates.
  4. Some states assumed complete or almost complete decarbonization of the (sub)sectors included in their PCAPs. This may not be realistic due to the limited actions outlined in these measures and the short timeline for outcomes (2025–2030).
The Stage is Now Set for Near-Term State Climate Action

While the PCAPs set states up to win pieces of the $4.3 billion in CPRG implementation grant funding available to help pay for the measures, there are other benefits that have come through the PCAP process. The CPRG program and the PCAPs funded by it have led to more state agency staff and stakeholders gaining familiarity with climate action planning and experience quantifying and describing measures the state could take to reduce climate pollution.

Even if a state is not successful in securing competitive CPRG implementation grant funding, the measures could be funded by private investment and/or other sources of public funding; having these measures laid out and quantified will give states a leg up in securing alternative funding. In addition, the ideas and estimates in each state's PCAP measures set up an important context for near-term climate action, showing a path forward for reducing climate pollution and growing their clean economy.

Use the dropdowns below to explore measures and their associated pollution reduction by sector and state. For a more complete summary of pollution reduction measures and other elements of state PCAPs, check out our State PCAP Spreadsheet.

  • Measure2025-2030 Cumulative Reduction (MMT C02e)

    State Priority Climate Action Plans Assessment Spreadsheet

    Methodology

    Most states estimated the cumulative 2025 through 2030 GHG pollution reductions associated with each measure. Many states also estimated 2025 through 2050 pollution reductions, and some states estimated annual pollution reductions in the year 2030. To better compare measures, our team used information reported in the PCAPs to estimate 2030 annual pollution reduction for each proposed measure for states that did not provide 2030 estimates. We would expect some measures to reduce pollution in multiple sectors, but for comparison we classified each measure for the primary sector in which we would expect pollution reduction.

     We then compared each state’s measures, sector by sector, with that state’s projected business-as-usual pollution in 2030 as calculated by a draft version 4.0 of the Energy Policy Simulator. We expect there to be some differences in results compared to the final version of EPS 4.0. Business-as-usual projections are based on EIA’s annual energy outlook, EPA emissions reports, other federal government data, Inflation Reduction Act and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act programs, and other federal energy and pollution regulations but does not include recent Clean Air Act section 111 rulemaking. The Business-as-usual projections do not include other state policies that may drive further pollution reductions — this decision was made for consistency because some states included PCAP measures that overlap with existing state policies. Importantly, states used a wide range of methodological approaches to estimate the pollution impact of measures with varying degrees of robustness; our team did not attempt to validate, correct, or improve the estimates made by states.