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7,000 Pages of New State Climate Plans, in 1 Helpful Chart

There is a theme here.

Solar panels.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Late last year, I wrote about an overlooked but potentially transformative program in the Inflation Reduction Act called the Climate Pollution Reduction Grants. Administered by the Environmental Protection Agency, it offered all 50 states, plus D.C. and Puerto Rico, an initial $3 million each for climate policy planning, spurring many states to develop emissions-cutting strategies for the first time. Later, cities and states will be able to apply for competitive grants from a $4.6 billion fund to implement elements of their plans.

States that accepted the planning money — i.e. all of them except Iowa, South Dakota, Florida, Wyoming, and Kentucky — agreed to submit an inventory of their greenhouse gas emissions and a list of actions they would prioritize to the EPA by March 1. All together, the plans ran to nearly 7,000 pages, which are now available on the EPA’s website for anyone to peruse. While I haven’t yet had a chance to read through them all myself, a new high-level analysis of the plans by the nonprofits Evergreen Collaborative, RMI, and Climate XChange shows where most states said they would focus their efforts.

The groups counted the number of “priority measures” listed in each plan and tracked the source of greenhouse gases each measure would address. By far the most prominent climate problem states want to tackle, with 186 measures across the plans, is transportation. As transportation is now the largest source of U.S. emissions, and states have a lot of influence over the biggest drivers of vehicle emissions, this is a good sign.

For example, Texas said that in the near term, it could build electric vehicle chargers and hydrogen fueling stations, introduce lower-emissions support equipment at its airports, and use more sustainable jet fuel. In the longer term, out to 2050, it could expand programs to deploy zero-emissions medium- and heavy-duty trucks and decarbonize its ports. West Virginia said it would try to reduce vehicle miles traveled, a measure of how much people drive, by implementing programs to get people on bikes and increasing transit options.

Every single plan included measures to reduce emissions from buildings, with some focused on basic energy efficiency upgrades and others that mention switching from fossil fuel heating to electric heat pumps. The biggest gap the analysis identified concerned industrial emissions, which only 27 of the plans included measures to address. About a quarter of U.S. climate pollution comes from industry, much of which is considered “hard to abate” — although, solutions are emerging.

Some states that had yet to develop comprehensive climate plans, like Texas, listed dozens of broad measures. Others that were further along listed just a handful of specific ones. New York, for example, included just nine priority actions that it wanted to use the forthcoming implementation grants for.

Another theme that emerged was a lack of regulatory measures in the plans, which focused more on incentives and voluntary action. That may be due to the wealth of federal funding to create “carrots” versus sticks, or because the states interpreted the planning grant as an opportunity to focus on “shovel-ready” projects that will make them better candidates for the competitive implementation grants.

Though there’s no requirement to implement these plans, the prospect of additional funding from the EPA to carry them out means that many of the measures could actually happen. The states participating are home to 90% of the U.S. population, and the same fraction of U.S. emissions. Applications for implementation grants were due April 1.

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Emily Pontecorvo profile image

Emily Pontecorvo

Emily is a founding staff writer at Heatmap. Previously she was a staff writer at the nonprofit climate journalism outlet Grist, where she covered all aspects of decarbonization, from clean energy to electrified buildings to carbon dioxide removal.

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A dam.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

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Hurricane aftermath.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

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The Capitol.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

While climate policy has become increasingly partisan, there also exists a strange, improbably robust bipartisan coalition raising support for something like a carbon tax.

There are lots of different bills and approaches floating out there, but the most popular is the “border adjustment” tax, basically an emissions-based tariff, which, as a concept, is uniquely suited to resolve two brewing trade issues. One is the European Union’s Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism, which will force essentially everybody else to play by its carbon pricing system. Then there’s the fact that China powers its world-beating export machine with coal, plugged into an electrical grid that is far dirtier than America’s.

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