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Resources From the State House to the White House: Progress on Climate, Justice, and Jobs

A wind farm in southeastern Washington state is viewed from the summit of nearby Steptoe Butte in Whitman County, July 2020.

This page was last updated on September 20, 2021.

States, local governments, and tribal nations have been taking meaningful action to confront the climate crisis, advance environmental justice, and ensure that more of the jobs building a 100 percent clean energy economy are high-quality union positions. In recent years, there have been key breakthroughs at the state level—including policies that light the path for Congress and the administration to follow through both executive and legislative action.

Twenty-five states and territories—representing a majority of the U.S. population—are committed to the greenhouse gas emissions reductions goals of the Paris climate agreement through the bipartisan U.S. Climate Alliance. Since 2015, 17 states as well as Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., have taken action on 100 percent clean energy agendas, according to a recent report from the Clean Energy States Alliance. Progress has occurred in blue, red, and purple states alike: In 25 key states tracked by the Energy Foundation, 2019 and 2020 saw 218 policy victories for clean energy in state legislatures and public utility commissions, compared with only 17 setbacks. This progress followed 2017, 2018, and 2019 state elections that saw numerous climate leaders elected to statewide office and state legislatures.

States, along with local governments and tribal nations, have made important strides in areas from renewable energy deployment and conservation of public lands to environmental justice and support for high-quality clean energy jobs. According to an analysis for the U.S. Climate Alliance conducted by the Rhodium Group, 133,000 clean energy jobs were created in alliance states between 2016 and 2019, at a growth rate of nearly 7 percent—far outpacing the national economywide job growth rate during this same period.

Now, the lessons of climate leadership must travel from the state house to the White House. The Biden administration and Congress should draw from states’ experience implementing transformative policies on the ground and should engage states’ existing advocacy coalitions. Crucially, they should also pursue a policy and investment agenda that directly engages states and further empowers state and local governments to continue their climate leadership. For their part, the same advocates and lawmakers who have fought to make this progress happen across states now need to help guide the federal government.

The Center for American Progress, along with the League of Conservation Voters and other partners, launched the From the State House to the White House initiative in 2020 and are curating a series of materials to uplift the successes and voices of state, tribal, and local governments, policy experts, and advocates:

  • A Single Courageous State: Climate, Jobs, and Justice, Episode 4, Center for American Progress, September 17, 2021
    In this video, state Sen. Chloe Maxmin and state Rep. Scott Cuddy discuss Maine’s clean energy progress, just transition, lessons learned for federal policymakers, and more.
  • A Single Courageous State: Climate, Jobs, and Justice, Episode 3, Center for American Progress, September 10, 2021
    In this video, Sean O’Leary of the Ohio River Valley Institute, Nancy Hirsh of the Centralia Coal Transition Board, and Emmett Pepper of Energy Efficient West Virginia discuss how the retirement of a coal plant successfully led to local economic development and how the Centralia model can apply to other communities.
  • A Single Courageous State: Climate, Jobs, and Justice, Episode 2, Center for American Progress, July 20, 2021
    In this video, state Rep. Kam Buckner (D-IL) discusses his state’s ongoing efforts to enact a 100 percent clean energy standard, reduce transportation pollution, lower utility bills, and meet the environmental justice mandate.
  • A Single Courageous State: Climate, Jobs, and Justice, Episode 1, Center for American Progress, July 9, 2021
    In this video, Rep. Jamie Long discusses Minnesota’s recent progress on clean vehicles, energy efficiency standards, the Line 3 pipeline, just transition, and environmental justice, as well as what’s next.
  • The Clean Economy Revolution Will Be Unionized, Center for American Progress, July 7, 2021
    This report analyzes how individual state and local governments have expanded new and existing clean energy industries, while advancing labor standards, the right to organize, collective bargaining, and equitable access to well-paying jobs.
  • Learning From California’s Ambitious Climate Policy, Center for American Progress, April 16, 2021
    This report describes California’s whole-of-government approach to climate policy and how the Biden administration can translate the state’s successes to the federal level.
  • Three things Biden can do to unleash state and local climate action, The Hill, March 18, 2021
    This op-ed outlines suggestions for the Biden administration to leverage partnerships with state, local, and tribal leaders in order to confront the climate crisis.
  • Mapping Environmental Justice in the Biden-Harris Administration, Center for American Progress, February 4, 2021
    This report analyzes California’s environmental justice screening tool, CalEnviroScreen, which uses data, metrics, and technology to help allocate climate action resources to disadvantaged communities.
  • The Biden Administration Brings State Climate Leadership to the White House, Center for American Progress, January 19, 2021
    This issue brief lauds President Joe Biden’s picks for his climate Cabinet and notes that a number of them have state climate leadership credentials that will help inform their time in federal service.
  • The secret weapon in Biden’s fight against climate change, The Hill, November 14, 2020
    This op-ed highlights the groundswell of support for climate action across state, local, and tribal governments and how the Biden administration can build off their progress.
  • State Climate Leadership Is Coming to the Nation’s Capital in 2021, Center for American Progress, November 9, 2020
    This column analyzes a number of critical national election results from states with strong climate, justice, and clean energy policies, making the case that state climate leadership is headed to Washington, D.C.
  • States Are Laying a Road Map for Climate Leadership, Center for American Progress, April 30, 2020
    This issue brief summarizes climate, environmental justice, and labor successes across power, transportation, building, and other sectors at the state level.