U.S. Progress on Climate Need Not Be Stymied By Inaction in Congress

Media Contacts
Nathan Willcox

Environment America Research & Policy Center

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Despite gridlock in Congress and the political dominance of fossil fuel interests on energy and climate policy in Washington, DC, the United States can dramatically reduce global warming emissions, according to a new study released today by environmental groups, national opinion leaders and labor and business organizations.

“News reports of droughts and wildfires in Texas, heat waves in the Gulf States and in DC, floods in Vermont, and melting ice caps are daily reminders of what science tells us to expect more of as fossil fuel pollution warms our world,” said Rob Sargent, Energy Program Director for Environment America. “We have a great challenge to reduce emissions as quickly as possible.”

Environment America was joined today by former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, now the Director of the Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University; Judith Albert, Executive Director of Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2); Kate Gordon, V.P. for Energy at the Center for American Progress; and Yvette Pena Lopes, Senior Director of  Policy and Government Affairs for the Blue Green Alliance to release an analysis showing that local governments and states, with an assist from federal agencies, can cut carbon pollution from 2008 levels nationally by 20 percent by 2020 and 34 percent by 2030. 

“I know from my experience in Colorado that citizens and other stakeholders across the spectrum want to save energy and shift to clean energy,” said former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, who is now the Director of the Center for a New Energy Economy at Colorado State University. “When we adopt clean energy policies, people see the environmental and economic benefits, and they value them. That is how we will build the clean energy economy.”  

“Local and state government-led actions have already produced cuts in emissions with clean energy – America now produces five times as much wind power and eight times as much solar power as we did seven years ago,” said Sargent. “If state and local-level actions can be implemented more broadly, with the public and the private sector pitching in, we can build on these successes and pave the way forward on addressing global warming.” 

The study, entitled “The Way Forward on Global Warming: Reducing Carbon Pollution Today and Restoring Momentum for Tomorrow by Promoting Clean Energy,” evaluates the emission reduction potential of 30 policy tools, across 50 states and 5 sectors, and emphasizes concrete gains already secured from actions implemented across the country. 

“Clean energy policies have created jobs, putting people to work in ways that improve our communities and our quality of life, while reducing pollution,” said Yvette Pena Lopes, Senior Director of Policy and Government Affairs for the Blue Green Alliance, a national partnership of labor unions and environmental organizations. “We have a huge opportunity to build on this foundation by showing that we can tackle our nation’s energy and environmental challenges in ways that create quality jobs for Americans.”

According to the analysis, actions by state and local governments — including renewable energy standards, energy efficiency policies, state and regional limits on greenhouse gas emissions, state-led clean cars standards — have already together yielded a reduction of more than 539 million tons of carbon pollution — an amount equivalent to 7 percent of U.S. global warming pollution in 2007. America’s emissions of global warming pollutants in 2009 were the lowest they have been since 1995.

“We stand at a crossroads, where we can decide to stick with the carbon-intensive, volatile status quo — or we can move toward a more sustainable energy economy. Though we face a frustrating political environment in Washington, the work of transforming the American economy has already begun,” said Kate Gordon, V.P. for Energy at the Center for American Progress. “As this study shows, cities, states, and some federal agencies have taken real steps to ensure a strong shift in how we produce and use energy, and the opportunities to do more are immense.”

“Even if Congress doesn’t get it, American businesses do,” said Judith Albert, executive director of Environmental Entrepreneurs. “Already, clean economy companies employ nearly 3 million workers in the United States. These are real jobs and a bright spot in an otherwise lackluster economy – and they reinforce the fact that we need to address climate change not just for the good of the environment and our health, but for the good of our economy.”

“The public and a growing number of stakeholders strongly support saving energy, shifting to clean power, reducing our oil dependence and reducing fossil fuel pollution,” said Sargent. “By tapping into this support, taking action to reduce emissions in any way we can, and then showing that these solutions work, we can overcome the entrenched opposition of the fossil fuel industry and their allies in Congress.”