The southwestern United States continues to lag behind other regions in efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change, but Nevada and Colorado are among the states making the most progress, a new report from a national energy-efficiency group found.
Nevada ranked 21st among all states on the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy’s annual scorecard, but was also the most improved state, moving up five places since last year’s ACEEE scorecard.
Colorado ranked 11th the highest ranking in the report’s Southwest/Mountain region and up from its 14th-place ranking in 2019.
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, who also joined the panel, touted his state’s efforts to set greenhouse-gas emissions targets and promote adoption of energy-efficient building codes. Earlier this year, Nevada also announced plans to adopt a Zero Emissions Vehicle standard, a requirement that automakers sell a certain percentage of electric cars within the state, which Colorado joined 11 other states in enacting in 2019.
“Transportation is a sector that most of use depend upon, but unfortunately, it still seems to be the greatest source of greenhouse gas emissions for many states in our nation, including our own in Nevada,” Sisolak said. “We plan to make this issue a priority, as we tackle it head on.”
State-level climate policy has taken on a new urgency over the last several years, as frustrations among clean-energy advocates mounted over congressional inaction and a wide range of environmental rollbacks pursued by the Trump administration. While there’s hope for new federal clean-energy investments and policy changes under President-elect Joe Biden, advocates with ACEEE and other groups say that state policy will be no less important — especially in states where progress towards renewable energy and stricter efficiency standards has been slow.
“A number of states see that they have to act aggressively now to cut carbon emissions, but others just aren’t acting urgently,” Steven Nadel, executive director of ACEEE, said in a statement. “We need to see more states follow the leaders here, and quickly. Aggressive state policies combating climate change are absolutely necessary no matter what gets done in Washington.”
Both Nevada and Colorado have both set a goal of 100% carbon-free electricity generation — by 2040 and 2050, respectively. Achieving the economy-wide emissions reductions that scientists say are necessary to avert the worst impacts of climate change, however, will require steep declines in emissions from other sectors, like transportation and building heating, over the same period.
ACEEE’s report hailed California’s buildings-sector policies as a model for other states to follow, including its codes for net-zero buildings and a recently enacted requirement that rooftop solar panels be installed on new homes and apartment buildings.