2015 WAS A COMPARATIVELY GOOD YEAR for the climate change movement because, really for the first time, there was some good news sprinkled in with the deluge of bad news. The Keystone XL pipeline was blocked, world leaders came to an unprecedented climate agreement in Paris, and global carbon emissions dropped slightly in 2015. All of those stories have big asterisks next to them, but they are signs of progress.
And it’s worth taking a moment to celebrate victories, especially since they come infrequently, and because we have to spend so much time wringing our hands about the terrible environmental stories (like the North Carolina town that doesn’t want solar panels because they’re afraid it will suck up all the energy from the sun). So now, at the end of 2015, let’s take a moment to acknowledge the U.S. states that have been doing the most to stop climate change.
The Aloha State is the big winner this year, considering the law Governor David Ige signed into law this past June: Hawaii is going to try to be relying on 100% renewable energy resources by 2045. It’s an ambitious goal that hasn’t been rivaled anywhere else in the United States, and it’s all the more difficult because Hawaii is the most oil-dependent state in the union. But Hawaii has the support of the state energy utility, which is huge, and the fact that this project will save average Hawaiians money in the long run. And it never hurts to have economics on your side.
Vermont is the runner-up in the switch to renewables, thanks to a bill passed in June that would mandate that 75% of the state’s energy come from renewables by 2032.
California signed a less ambitious (but still pretty huge) deal to cut their emissions back in October. In their plan, 50% of the state’s energy would come from renewable resources by 2030. This is still impressive, though, because California’s economy is huge, and because it provides some pretty great momentum for similar further measures.
New York has a bill in the works that would require 100% clean energy by 2050. It would put it just behind Hawaii if it passes. Also, honorable mentions go to Oregon and Minnesota, whom, along with California, opened up their state parks for free on Black Friday as part of the awesome #OptOutside movement. Oregon also gets credit for being home to Portland, which is probably the greenest city in the country.
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