Today, Governor Sisolak signed Executive Order 2019-22 committing to reduce carbon pollution in Nevada and work toward an equitable and inclusive transition to a carbon neutral, clean energy economy. On the campaign trail and in his State of the State, Governor Sisolak promised Nevadans he would protect their health and well-being by prioritizing action on climate. With this latest executive order, he is following through on his word. Governor Sisolak is blazing a path for other states looking to go green while the federal government limits its role to withdrawals, like from the Paris Agreement, and rollbacks, including on cars.
The Governor’s Executive Order advances statewide climate action through two phases, both of which are coordinated by the directors of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Governor’s Office of Energy. The directors of these agencies will collaborate with representatives from the Public Utilities Commission, the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Department of Transportation, the Nevada System of Higher Education, and the Department of Administration to develop strategies and recommendations to reduce economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions and improve Nevada’s resilience to global warming’s impacts. Across both phases, these existing government agencies will work with Nevada’s many tribal nations and consider the impact of their recommended policies on low-income and disadvantaged communities. This kind of inclusion is necessary—not only because global warming compounds existing social inequalities, but also because our climate solutions must work for everyone to work at all.
These state agencies will also make sure Nevada’s government leads by example, on both carbon reduction and climate adaptation. The agencies will assess how climate change impacts their own programs and operations, as a first step in adapting to our climate realities. They will also identify how to reduce emissions and costs from the buildings that house their staff and operations through energy efficiency.
In Phase 1, this group of state agencies will publish annual greenhouse gas (GHG) inventories that tally planet-warming emissions from Nevada’s highest-emitting sectors, which are transportation, energy, and buildings. Every four years, these GHG inventories will include data on emissions related to other sectors in Nevada’s economy, including commercial and residential buildings, industry, agriculture, and land use and forestry. The inventories will also project Nevada’s future GHG emissions for a twenty-year period. Having established where Nevada’s greenhouse gas emissions come from and where they are going, all the agencies will leverage their respective expertise to write a report full of policy recommendations to reduce planet-warming, health-harming pollution across the state. Phase 2 calls for the development of a State Climate Strategy focusing on the specifics of climate mitigation and adaptation policies.
Climate Change Is Part of Nevada’s Present
By issuing this executive order, Governor Sisolak demonstrates that he understands that global warming is not a future problem that can wait for future solutions. The state is already experiencing the impacts of climate change and Nevadans need swift action to safeguard their present and future health, homes, and lands.
The Silver State has warmed 2°F in the past century, according to the Fourth National Climate Assessment. That warming contributes to the intensity of heat waves and droughts, reduced snowpack, reduced water flow in the Colorado River, and increasing frequency and intensity of wildfires. According to Climate Central, Las Vegas, where most Nevadans live, is the fastest warming city in the country. The average temperature in Vegas has increased by 5.8°F since 1970 and, according to the National Weather Service, the average maximum temperature in the city this past August was close to 107°F. Data compiled by the Center for Disease Control shows that heat-related deaths in Nevada increased almost fivefold—from 29 to 139 summertime deaths—between 2014 and 2017. A recent study found that this warming is especially dangerous for vulnerable groups like the elderly and Nevadans with pre-existing heart diseases. Rural Nevada is also impacted by rising temperatures and is acutely sensitive to drought. Less water means more tough choices for farmers and ranchers whose livelihoods depend on the land.
Higher temperatures also contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone, a major component of smog. Smoggy, poor air quality days can be dangerous for children, the elderly, and anyone with pre-existing respiratory health conditions, like asthma. The impacts range in severity from mortality and hospitalization to having to keep a child indoors because it is dangerous for them to play outside.
Another source of increased ground-level ozone is the pollution that comes out of gas-fueled cars’ tailpipes. Cleaning up the transportation sector—a major source of air pollution in the state and the country—should be a major focus of the annual policy recommendations in Phase 1 and the State Climate Strategy in Phase 2. Transportation policies, like the Advanced Clean Cars Program, have immediate and future air quality benefits for all Nevadans.
Earlier this spring, Governor Sisolak reaffirmed the state’s commitment to the Paris Accord by joining the bipartisan, 25-state-strong U.S. Climate Alliance. The policy recommendations that emerge from Phase 1 and Phase 2 this year and in 2020 will identify concrete steps that the state can implement to meet the greenhouse gas emission reduction goals set by the 2015 Paris Accord (a 28 percent reduction in emissions as compared to 2005 by 2025). Limiting emissions to hit this target is a necessary step to ensure future generations of Nevadans have a hospitable and healthy place to call home.
Building on Nevada’s Clean Energy Progress
The Governor’s executive order builds on the state’s progress on confronting climate change and expanding the state’s clean energy economy. Earlier this year, Nevada’s legislators unanimously passed a strengthened renewable portfolio standard (RPS), which requires a minimum of 50 percent of Nevada’s energy to come from clean, renewable sources, like solar and wind, by 2030 and sets a goal for 100 percent clean energy by 2050. Legislators also passed SB 254 this session, a bill that set the stage for Governor Sisolak’s executive order. Both bills were sponsored by one of Nevada’s clean energy champions, Senator Chris Brooks.
As more and more of Nevada’s energy is generated from clean, renewable sources, it makes economic and environmental sense to leverage Nevada’s own resources to power other sectors, like transportation and buildings. According to the Energy Information Administration, Nevada’s residents and businesses spent approximately $6.75 billion on fossil fuels in 2017 (the year with the most recent available data). Nearly all of these fossil fuels were imported, which means Nevadans’ hard-earned dollars are leaving the state instead of supporting local clean energy businesses and workers.
With Executive Order 2019-22, Governor Sisolak is helping build a clean energy future for rural and urban Nevada that expands its clean energy workforce, leverages its solar energy potential to renewably power more homes and cars, and will lead to cleaner air, better human health, and healthier ecosystems in the Silver State.