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A new report says more local action is needed to reach national climate goals. Where does N.H. stand?

Merrimack Station by PSNH_0.jpg
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New Hampshire has the only remaining running coal-fired power plant in New England.

Climate change was largely in the background as a campaign issue in this year’s midterm elections. But as a new class of lawmakers in New Hampshire and across the country are preparing to take office, a new analysis highlights the importance of local action on greenhouse gas emissions for the United States to meet its climate goals.

Read more: How climate change factored in the midterm elections in N.H.

A new report from the group America is All In shows that there’s an 11% gap between projected emissions reductions from existing policies and the U.S.’s goal for 2030. The group says states, cities and businesses will need to pitch in with “ambitious action” to help limit the emissions that fuel global warming.

The country is currently on track to reduce emissions 39% from 2005 levels by 2030, according to the analysis. The Biden Administration’s goal is 50% or more.

The organization unveiled the report at a major climate conference in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, where global leaders are gathered to discuss how to limit global warming and share the costs, as the deadline to avoid increasingly catastrophic impacts draws nearer.

Speaking at a press conference Monday, former White House National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy said the Inflation Reduction Act was the most significant step the U.S. had ever taken to address climate change, but continued support for climate action is needed.

That legislation makes federal funding available to states and residents for a variety of climate-saving measures, and advocates say most states in New England are ready to take advantage of those dollars, after years of climate planning. Meanwhile, New Hampshire remains the only New England state without a law mandating greenhouse gas emissions reductions.

“The IRA is absolutely a game changer,” McCarthy said. “But it’s not game over.”

America is All In’s report outlines key policies state governments could implement to drive emissions down. Those include closing existing coal plants, adopting stronger energy efficiency standards, accelerating clean energy adoption, implementing zero-emissions vehicle mandates, and creating standards for methane emissions.

New Hampshire lags neighboring states on energy efficiency and renewable energy standards for electricity suppliers, and is home to the last running coal plant in New England.

Gov. Chris Sununu, who won a fourth term Tuesday night, has said a transition to clean energy is the long-term solution for New Hampshire. But Sununu has opposed a variety of efforts to support emissions reductions, including a regional initiative to reduce emissions in the transportation sector and efforts to raise the state’s renewable portfolio standard.

Sununu’s Department of Energy has prioritized a technology-neutral and market-driven approach to energy policy, and their latest strategy says carbon-based fuels are “likely to remain the most prominent overall fuel type of New Hampshire’s resource mix for decades.”

While the final State House roster for the next session is still taking shape, the makeup of the state legislature could also determine New Hampshire’s role in the energy transition in the coming, critical years.

Some version of a greenhouse gas emission reduction goal has been in front of state lawmakers since at least 2018. In the last legislative session, some state representatives said skepticism around climate science kept the committees in charge of environment and energy policy from moving forward.

Corrected: November 10, 2022 at 2:27 PM EST
An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated New Hampshire is the only New England state with a law mandating greenhouse gas emissions. It has been updated to reflect that New Hampshire is the only state in the region without a law mandating greenhouse gas emissions reductions.
Mara Hoplamazian reports on climate change, energy, and the environment for NHPR.