State and local policies often get short shrift in the debate over how to address global warming. Big, national, multi-sector policies like cap-and-trade and carbon taxes always seem to draw the lion's share of the attention. But the progress that America has made in developing clean energy over the last decade - and it has been substantial - is due as much to innovative and aggressive state policy action as anything else.
Over the past decade, dozens of states have drawn up climate action plans laying out strategies for reducing their emissions of global warming pollutants and, in some cases, plans for adapting to a new climate. Seven states have gone even farther, adopting enforceable limits on global warming pollution.
Enough time has now passed that we can now start evaluating the performance of states that adopted climate action plans, while ensuring that those states with mandatory emission caps are moving forward with realistic implementation plans.
As a state with both a climate action plan and an enforceable cap, Maryland is an important bellwether. And the reviews on Maryland's performance thus far - as detailed in our new report, Too Little, But Not Too Late - are ... mixed.
The good news is that the state is moving forward with several key emission-reduction policies, and that emissions are trending downwards, though partially as a result of the economic downturn.
The bad news is that the state has failed to move forward in any meaningful way on several key policies that were counted on to achieve large emission reductions in the state's climate action plan. In addition, the state has failed to make common-sense improvements in several clean energy policies that would enable them to deliver greater results.
The experience in Maryland is more evidence that, when it comes to fighting global warming, developing comprehensive plans is important, but the nitty-gritty work of changing public policy to reduce emissions is much more challenging. So too is the work of watchdogging state officials to ensure that they put their promises into action.