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The Nature Conservancy’s U.S. Climate Strategy

by

Brian McPeek

Chief Conservation Officer, The Nature Conservancy

February 2016

Wind farm turbines situated on a ridge top in the Appalachian mountains of West Virginia. Photo © Kent Mason
Wind farm turbines situated on a ridge top in the Appalachian mountains of West Virginia. Photo © Kent Mason

The landmark climate agreement approved in Paris includes a commitment by the United States to reduce its emissions by up to 28 percent from 2005 levels by the year 2025. To meet that commitment, and move beyond it in future years, we must push for continued policy change and innovation.

Unfortunately, political gridlock is slowing action on climate change at a time when we don’t have a second to lose. If we want to see real progress on this critical issue, we’ve got to bring more people into the tent. And to do that, we need to emphasize the opportunities, such as scientific innovation, energy security and healthier, more productive landscapes. We also need to show how the benefits of a low-carbon economy outweigh the costs.

That’s why it’s encouraging to see individual U.S. states pursuing agendas that promote this sort of positive narrative and a focus on solutions. Governors and mayors from across the country were a visible and positive force at the Paris meetings, showcasing policy approaches that are reducing emissions while supporting robust local economies. This kind of state-level innovation will be essential to meeting the United States’ commitments in the global agreement and is also helping to build a new consensus for action across the political spectrum at the national level.

"Our U.S. Climate Strategy is helping all 50 states to take their 'best next step forward on climate.'"
- Brian McPeek

Around the country, The Nature Conservancy is known as a trusted nonpartisan voice with a 60-year history of producing tangible conservation results. Now we are leveraging that experience and our best assets—our committed volunteer leaders, our talented staff and our strong relationships across the political spectrum in every state—to help the United States meet its commitments in the global agreement and to pave the way for steeper reductions by 2030 and beyond.

Our U.S. Climate Strategy is helping all 50 states to take their “best next step forward on climate,” recognizing that each state offers a unique opportunity for action on this urgent issue. Working locally, these best next steps are sparking dialogue, strengthening relationships and building momentum. By pursuing advances in each state, we are helping to shape local policies and lowering emissions across the country:

  • In New Hampshire, we are working on legislation to enhance the state’s Renewable Energy Fund and to incentivize energy efficiency investments in conjunction with the implementation of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative—an agreement among northeast states to cap greenhouse gas emissions.
  • In New York, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota and California, we are working to increase Renewable Energy Standards by 20-30% or more, and demonstrating that clean energy policies can be a key component of state-level economic growth.
  • In California and Florida, we are working to integrate climate considerations into state transportation planning processes.
  • In Iowa, we are launching a statewide campaign to improve the use of fertilizers, an action that can both help reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and improve water quality, and in Michigan, we are partnering with scientists to better document the climate benefits of nutrient management practices.
  • In New York, we are part of the Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) process, a platform that integrates aggressive clean energy goals with a sustainable business model for utilities and efforts to protect the state’s natural habitats from renewable energy expansion.
  • In Connecticut and Pennsylvania, we are working to enhance state financing programs for clean energy, helping to build public-private partnerships to advance investments that are both financially sound and good for the climate.

These are just few examples of the many efforts currently underway through our U.S. Climate Strategy. This ability to pursue consistent goals through a flexible approach across all 50 states is something the Conservancy is uniquely suited to do. And it all adds up.

Every one of these state-level actions helps to shift the climate debate, to encourage bipartisan champions to advocate for action at the national level and to meet the ambitious goals we set for ourselves and our world in Paris.


Originally Posted on Conservancy Talk

February 22, 2016