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The Challenges Facing Climate Action Plans

In today's edition of This Week in Climate, we take a comprehensive look at states and municipalities' Climate Action Plans.
Abigail Bassett
Mar 26, 2024 5 min read
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Last year, the EPA announced $4.6 billion in Climate Pollution Reduction Grants Program (CPRG) as part of President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, and as of last week, more than 45 states and large metro areas submitted their plans for ways to “reduce harmful pollution and address environmental justice concerns.” This is just one step in many needed to move America’s cities and municipalities toward a greener future, and while it certainly represents a tremendous move in the right direction, there are still plenty of challenges ahead.

What is the CPRG?

The Climate Pollution Reduction Grants (CPRG) program is an initiative under the Inflation Reduction Act, which provides nearly $5 billion in grants to states, local governments, tribes, and territories to help them develop and implement plans for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other harmful air pollution.

The program is structured in two phases. The first was a planning phase, which closed for states and municipalities as of March 1, but remains open for tribal and territories until April 1. The second stage is aimed at implementing those strategies and plans submitted by localities. The program is competitive and grants are issued by the EPA.

The CPRG offers a number of benefits to states, cities, and other jurisdictions that choose to participate. These include everything from funding support and technical assistance to national-level recognition for the efforts that those participating states and municipalities that decide to participate make.

Financially, the CPRG offers substantial resources to help cover the costs of planning and implementing major strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help address some of the long-term social and environmental justice problems around pollution. The program also offers robust technical assistance to help states and cities develop effective pollution reduction plans, and it helps localities track their emissions. Since we must fight climate change collectively, the CPRG is a significant tool that major metros and states can leverage to stop or, at the very least, slow global warming.

More Than 45 States and Metro Areas Submit Climate Action Plans

As of the March 1 deadline, more than 45 states and metro areas had submitted their plans for approval. Those include a mix of both red and blue states, as CNN points out. At stake is $4.6 billion in funds to help states make green transitions, create new jobs, and improve environmental justice issues. While it was expected that many blue states would sign on to the program, a surprising number of red states and municipalities decided to participate, including deeply red states like Alaska, Alabama, Missouri, Montana, and Utah.

Many states plan to implement everything from installing solar panels, replacing oil burners with electric ones, planting more trees, and installing EV charging stations to implementing better farming practices to help store more carbon in the soil. According to the CNN story, just 33 localities previously had climate action plans in place. With 47 either updating or creating new climate plans as part of the CPRG, the move forward is significant. Jennifer Macedonia, a deputy assistant administrator at the EPA, told CNN. “This is quite unprecedented in terms of comprehensive climate action plans across states, and we also have metropolitan areas covering the country as well.”

While five states, including Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, South Dakota, and Wyoming, decided not to participate in the CPRG, major metro areas in those states are participating. For example, Jacksonville, Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Tampa in Florida are all participating, as are Rapid City in South Dakota, Cheyenne in Wyoming, Louisville and Lexington in Kentucky, and Cedar Rapids and Des Moines in Iowa. That means that more than 96% of the population will be covered by a climate action plan, according to the EPA.

According to CNN, the projects that have been submitted include everything from switching to LED street lights to funding for purchasing electric buses and installing solar panels. In Chicago, there are plans to tap into geothermal energy thanks to a $10 million grant that was awarded to Blacks in Green, an environmental justice group in the city, according to Grist.

Challenges Ahead for a Comprehensive Solution to Climate Change

While it is positive news that so many states and municipalities have submitted proposals for the program, climate change mitigation is still deeply politicized. As an example, West Virginia, a coal-rich state, submitted plans for the CPRG but did not include plans to phase out greenhouse gases. Instead, the state is seeking funds for cleaner energy resources like hydropower and nuclear, according to CNN. It did, however, include plans to stop or reduce methane that’s leaking from old coal mines.

There are plenty of questions about just how much good the IRA can do, too, especially in a highly-charged election year.

Recently, Grist reported that for every $1 the government injected into climate change mitigation, private corporations spent $5.50. As the story indicates, the $240 billion that’s been invested by the government may just not be enough. As Grist points out, “several economists and analysts said that, while impressive, the rate of investment revealed in the Clean Investment Monitor still isn’t enough for the U.S. to achieve its climate goals. We can certainly cut emissions by 40 percent, as stated in the Inflation Reduction Act, or IRA, but we’re still far from the 50 percent reduction needed by 2030 to meet its commitments under the Paris Agreement.”

A Mix of Private and Public Programs to Mitigate Climate Change

In spite of political, financial, and logistical challenges, policy analysts and environmental advocates still emphasize that the IRA is a huge step forward in the fight against climate change. There’s still more to come to support the green transition and help citizens and municipalities mitigate greenhouse gasses. However, the solution won’t just come from government or private entities alone.

Take public programs like the American Climate Corps, for example, which opens in April. This program was initially proposed in the IRA, but was stripped during negotiations. The Biden Administration ultimately launched the program in September 2023, promising thousands of new jobs in climate projects that require little to no experience. Jobs include opportunities in wildfire mitigation, disaster response preparedness, energy-efficiency installations and recycling.

There’s also growing support from private industry, as well. Bloomberg recently announced that it will be funding $200 million in climate initiatives, connecting more than two dozen cities with experts and resources in climate change mitigation.

While the participation in the CPRG is a significant step in the right direction when it comes to reducing greenhouse gasses, and getting states and municipalities money and resources to make greener investments, it's going to take a blend of private and public effort to truly slow down climate change.

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The Author

Abigail Bassett