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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 July 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: