Column: States lead in regulating climate change, now let the federal government follow suit | opinion


Starting this week, countries around the world will come together in Glasgow for COP26 to discuss how the world will tackle our climate crisis.

I’ve partnered with more than 500 state lawmakers from 47 states and territories to urge the federal government to increase our ambitions and strengthen our national climate commitments under the Paris Agreement.

The time to act is now, and as the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, the United States has a moral and practical responsibility to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

As a state legislature, I see the effects of climate change in my state firsthand.

Across the country this year we have seen historic damage from hurricanes and forest fires, droughts and floods, heat waves and cold snaps.

In the past five years, North Carolina has seen drought, forest fires, severe flooding and rainfall, and two deadly 500-year-old storms (Hurricanes Matthew and Florence) that cost the state billions of dollars.

2021 was the wettest year on record for our state, according to NOAA – so much so that even western North Carolina, high in the mountains, was hit by deadly floods related to Tropical Storm Fred that year.

These impacts have opened the eyes of decision-makers on both parties, and North Carolina has taken real leadership on climate change. In 2017, Governor Roy Cooper North Carolina joined the US Climate Alliance together with other states, thereby expressing his commitment to the greenhouse gas reduction targets of the Paris Agreement.

Since then, the Cooper government has created Executive Order 80 to encourage this commitment, and has subsequently published the Clean Energy Plan and North Carolina Climate Risk Assessment and Resilience Plan as blueprints for achieving these goals.

At the same time, there was an almost universal and bipartisan recognition in the NC General Assembly that action and investment are needed to make North Carolina communities more resilient and adaptable to changing climates and extreme weather conditions. A state budget is currently being negotiated that may include historic investments in climate protection, flood control and adaptation projects for communities across the state. Key Republican leaders from severely affected parts of eastern North Carolina have spearheaded this effort.

Despite the bipartisan recognition of these issues, we are still a long way from fully protecting our communities and our environment from the dangers of a changing climate. And when there is pressure to do more, many of my colleagues in the legislature shy away from taking more courageous steps without knowing beforehand what commitments the German government and the international community will enter into.

In other words, government action is crucial, but not enough – we cannot do this alone. States rely on the federal government to serve as a strong basis for climate protection.

The actions taken by North Carolina and other states can serve as a roadmap for state action. For example, more than two-thirds of the US states and territories have some form of Renewable Portfolio Standard or Clean Energy Standard, and more than a dozen are committed to 100 percent clean energy.

The states are also converting fleets to zero-emission vehicles, making buildings more energy efficient and protecting natural landscapes in order to improve carbon sequestration.

Again and again, states fill the climate protection gap at the federal level. But at this critical moment we have to stand as a United States. Together with strong international, national and state measures, we can take the necessary steps to avoid further climate disasters. It is for this reason that I encourage President Biden, Sens. Burr and Tillis, Reps. Butterfield, Ross, Murphy, Price, Foxx, Manning, Rouzer, Hudson, Bishop, McHenry, Cawthorn, Adams and Budd, this as your mandate to the people of. to look at North Carolina.

Combine and improve our ambition and commitment in each negotiation room. The US government must lead by example in committing and achieving full decarbonization, as we are doing in our own states.

Pricey Harrison is a North Carolina State representative from Greensboro.

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