In terms of historic progress on U.S. climate policy, 2022 will be hard to beat.
The Inflation Reduction Act, signed in mid-August, powers the clean energy transition with a $369 billion investment that puts the U.S. on a course to cut carbon emissions by 40 percent by the end of this decade. It’s making a sea change in the country’s clean energy economy. It’s on track to generate millions of new jobs and is already shifting the politics of climate nationwide.
But as 2023 kicks off, it looks to be another epic year for climate policy — with most action shifting to the states. There will be intense battles at the federal level, too, but they will be mostly defensive, as a divided government shifts the dynamic and challenges climate advocates to keep the ball moving forward.
Where are the brightest spots for state-level action? The midterms left climate advocates in a stronger position in many states, and we could find ourselves at the end of the year with a plethora of policy gains. Among others, we’re likely to see action in the "Three M" states — Maryland, Massachusetts and Minnesota:
- In Maryland, where outgoing Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed a climate measure, successor Wes Moore, a climate advocate, has vowed aggressive climate action in his first 100 days.
- In Massachusetts, climate advocate Maura Healey takes the helm from outgoing Gov. Charlie Baker, who just recently signed a landmark climate bill in 2022.
- Shifts in the legislature toward climate advocates have opened a pathway to policy progress in Minnesota, where Gov. Tim Walz is pushing for a new standard: 100 percent carbon-free energy by 2040.
While states battle for the mantle of climate leader (a competition we want to encourage), Washington, D.C., will be the scene of a more complex set of battles. Here are a few fronts where we can look forward to seeing a lot of action this year:
- The implementation of IRA, a complex process involving many federal agencies and much rule-making and grantmaking, will gain steam this year. It may also become a larger political target, as those favoring the status quo look to weaken or undermine it.
- The new leadership in the House of Representatives has shown little affection for climate legislation or President Joe Biden’s administration and may launch nuisance hearings or investigations to interfere with the regulatory process of implementing IRA.
- In an ironic twist, the anti-climate and pro-fossil fuel U.S. Chamber of Commerce is being attacked by Republicans for being too "woke" on climate change. (If only!)
It all adds up to a lot of action, and the question is where will companies — many of which sat out the struggle over IRA — land as the battle widens over climate policy.
What can businesses do? First, understand that the opposition to climate policy progress will likely double down. Passage of the IRA was a huge step, but fossil-fuel companies and their allies are not going to quietly slink away. They will do everything they can to slow implementation of the IRA and to torpedo new policies in states and municipalities. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is likely to be at the forefront of that opposition, leveraging the money, reputations and influence of its members to sway policymakers.
Some companies continue to do heroic work advancing new technology for climate solutions while helping scale existing tech. To have a shot at avoiding catastrophic climate change, however, the U.S. and the world need to move even faster, and companies can help in several ways:
- Stop the obstruction by your trade associations. If the trade associations won’t stop, disavow their obstruction publicly and strongly, and exit the groups.
- Submit supportive comments during the federal rulemaking processes. Do this individually or as a group. If your trade associations are submitting negative comments, be explicit about where you disagree with them — and that they don’t speak for you.
- Advocate for strong climate policies in the states, cities, counties, etc. where you operate. Building codes, transportation policies, permitting for transmission lines, and other critical facilities are just some policies that will be debated outside of DC — and it’s vital for companies to use their influence to help the regions where they operate to lead on climate.
2022 was indeed a historic year for climate policy in the U.S. Let’s band together and make 2023 even bigger.