This past week, I traveled to COP27 with a delegation of state legislators from across the United States. We worked to shine a light on the way our home states are leading efforts to combat climate change and equitably transition to a clean energy economy. In the wake of consequential midterm elections and a new report that the U.S. has warmed 68% faster than the planet as a whole, U.S. states are more ready than ever to lead in the passage and implementation of strong climate policy.
Some may be still asking why state governments matter in the fight against global climate change. After all, addressing climate change will require an all-hands-on-deck approach with buy in from all nations. But local and state climate policy solutions are critical.
The impacts of climate change are not uniform and result in different types of burdens depending on where one lives - even within the United States. In 2022 alone, the United States has experienced costly and life-threatening heatwaves, droughts, wildfires, extreme flooding events and hurricanes. Many, if not all, of these events have been fueled by climate change. Here in Pennsylvania, our communities are no strangers to many of these impacts. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, our state is facing worsened air quality, increases in flooding damage, agricultural losses and the expansion of vector-borne diseases such as Lyme Disease.
It is crucial that states like Pennsylvania be a part of the climate solution equation because we can craft policy in a way that accounts for regional and state-specific climate impacts. Not to mention, states have continually been at the forefront of American climate action by passing policies to comprehensively reduce emissions, commit to 100% renewable energy, expand climate-friendly transportation systems, and advance nature-based climate solutions. States will also play a leading role in determining how funds from the recently enacted Inflation Reduction Act are invested into climate priorities.
The policies we pass in our states have been and will continue to serve as a roadmap for federal and international climate policy. That’s why the Pennsylvania legislature is focusing on the reduction of CO2 emissions, methane regulations, and cooperating with federal climate change guidelines. This will help reduce extreme heat risks, support agriculture, recreation and ecosystems, reduce flood risks, help low-income households handle increased energy usage, and mitigate tropical storm and landslide risks. In addition, I have sponsored legislation focused on the expansion of urban agriculture, supporting local farmers and climate change through agroforestry, holding greenhouse gas polluters accountable, and working to establish a pollinator task force to address the growing concerns regarding declines in bees and natural pollinator populations.
It was an honor to take part in various roundtable discussions and panels with some of the world’s top climate leaders at COP27 to highlight the work we are doing right here in the commonwealth. In relation to the rest of the world, our state may be relatively small. But our potential impact on climate policy is not. The actions we take today to reign in climate-harming pollution within state borders will ensure a resilient future for every Pennsylvanian and set an example for all levels of government across our planet.