State Policy Snapshot: This Year’s Biggest Climate Change Solutions

The back of a camera pointed at a collage of images of various state capitol buildings for states that have passed climate change solutions.

Featured Image: Amanda Pontillo, Climate XChange. Photo of camera by Imansyah Muhamad Putera on Unsplash. Photos of state capitols by apaschen, Greg O'Beirne, San906, Justin A Wilcox, Bestbudbrian, rmr2u, Michael Howe, Farragutful, Ajay Suresh, M.O. Stevens, Cliff on Wikimedia Commons.

Nearly 1,300 climate and environment bills have been introduced across the country in 2022 so far, according to the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators (NCEL) Bill Tracker. While many states are still in session, it’s worth taking a look at the notable legislative and administrative efforts that have already passed this year.

While the focus of this article is on more prominent policies that have passed in 2022, Climate XChange’s State Climate Policy Tracker is up-to-date with all of the legislative and executive progress made this year.


Climate Plans Progress Across the States

Many states are now shifting their focus to how to achieve their climate targets. Louisiana released its finalized Climate Action Plan in February, outlining recommendations to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 and increase climate resilience. Michigan also released the finalized Michigan Healthy Climate Plan just ahead of Earth Day. The plan first identifies broader actions to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, and then provides a more in-depth “Roadmap to 2030” with goals needed by the end of this decade to set the state on the pathway to decarbonization. Notable recommendations include investing 40 percent of climate and water infrastructure funds in disadvantaged communities, putting two million EVs on the road, cutting food waste in half, and generating at least 60 percent of the state’s electricity with renewable energy sources by 2030.

Climate planning efforts are underway in seven other states, with the following timelines:


New Climate and Equity Targets in Maryland

Maryland became the eighth state to set a mandatory net-zero emissions target, after the Climate Solutions Now Act of 2022 (SB 528) took effect on April 11, 2022 without the governor’s signature. In addition to achieving net-zero emissions by 2045, one of the most aggressive timelines in the country, the legislation also establishes a target to reduce emissions 60 percent below 2006 emission levels by 2031, up from a 40 percent reduction by 2030 previously established in 2016.

The bill establishes definitions and explicit criteria for “overburdened communities” and “underserved communities,” using a combination of indicators including environmental hazards, pollution exposure, health outcomes, income levels, race, and English proficiency.

Notably, the law also exemplifies a growing movement in states, including Washington and New York, that require a certain share of funding or benefits of climate investments to be allocated to environmental justice and marginalized communities. In coordination with the Maryland Department of the Environment, the Commission on Environmental Justice and Sustainable Communities has to “adopt a methodology for identifying communities disproportionately affected by climate impacts” and set a goal for the percentage of funds dedicated to meeting the state’s emissions targets that benefit disproportionately affected communities by the end of 2023.

Despite the creation of a green bank, which will receive $15 million in state funds between 2023 and 2026, some critics of the bill have highlighted the need for significantly more revenue to fund the state’s transition to a net-zero economy.

Read a statement from Climate XChange’s Maryland Regional Director, Wandra Ashley-Williams, on the passage of the Climate Solutions Now Act.


Oregon Joins the Environmental Justice Mapping Movement

Passed in late March, HB 4077 is Oregon’s most recent effort to decrease health and environmental disparities and to identify environmental justice communities. The law codifies the existing Environmental Justice Task Force (EJTF) as the Environmental Justice Council, a 13-member body appointed by the governor responsible for advising the governor and environmental agencies on EJ issues in the state. Importantly, the EJ Council will have dedicated staff in the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and funding to support the new council’s objectives. Its main responsibilities include:

  • Defining and identifying EJ communities in the state. The new law establishes a broad definition of EJ communities in the state, including communities of color, low-income communities, communities experiencing health inequities, tribal, rural, remote, or coastal communities, and other communities traditionally underrepresented in public processes or adversely harmed by environmental and health hazards.
  • Drafting guidance for state agencies on incorporating equity and environmental justice into decision-making. The EJ Council must develop a report with recommendations on how to best meaningfully consult EJ communities and increase public participation in policy decisions. How to establish measurable goals for reducing environmental disparities, equity analysis methods, and approaches to analyze environmental burdens and benefits of environmental laws will also be included in the report.
  • Developing an EJ mapping tool and recommendations on how agencies can use the tool. The council, with staff support from the DEQ and Oregon Health Authority, is tasked with creating an EJ mapping tool before September 15, 2023 to illustrate EJ communities in the state and provide accessible environmental, health, and socioeconomic data. The council’s report will include recommendations on how the mapping tool should be used to distribute resources to communities historically underinvested in, and how the mapping tool can help provide community benefits and diminish community burdens.


Oregon is the latest state to develop such a tool, and another five states are currently working to finalize their draft mapping tools this year.

EJ Mapping Tools Under Development:


Colorado EnviroScreen
Draft under review
Expected launch: Summer 2022


Delaware Environmental Justice Discovery Tool
In development
First phase: Summer-Fall 2022

New York

Disadvantaged Communities 
In development


Michigan EJScreen
In development


Disadvantaged Communities 
In development


Wisconsin Environmental Equity Tool
In development

Want to learn more about states that have EJ mapping tools? Visit our Climate Governance & Equity page on the State Climate Policy Resource Hub.

States Make Progress on Defining EJ Communities

Maine became the latest state to codify a definition of EJ communities with the passage of LD 2018, taking a slightly different approach than most states. The legislature passed LD 1682 (2021), which directed state agencies to incorporate equity and environmental justice considerations into future decision making. Specifically, the Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future (GOPIF) had to develop definitions for “environmental justice populations” and “frontline communities.” GOPIF published their recommended definitions in a report for the Legislature that included model legislation, which was subsequently adopted as LD 2018. The bill requires the Department of Environmental Protection to define “environmental justice populations,” taking into consideration, at a minimum, median household income, race, ethnicity, and English language proficiency. 

Several other states, including Rhode Island, Vermont, and Hawaii, have bills under consideration this session to define EJ communities. Delaware formed a Justice40 Oversight Committee last year to identify “disadvantaged and marginalized communities” in the state by the end of 2022.

Want to learn more about how these policies work? Visit our Climate Governance & Equity page on the State Climate Policy Resource Hub.


New Building and Appliance Performance Standards in Four States

With the passage of the state’s Climate Solutions Now Act (described above), Maryland became the third state to establish a building performance standard (BPS), a policy requiring existing buildings to meet energy and/or greenhouse gas emissions-based performance targets. Maryland’s law requires the Maryland Department of Environment to develop a BPS for existing, large buildings to reduce direct emissions from buildings by 20 percent by 2030, and net-zero emissions by 2040.

New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington State passed appliance and equipment performance standards (APS) this session, another type of performance standard that requires products to meet specific minimum energy and water efficiency requirements.

For more information on buildings and efficiency policies, visit the ACEEE state and local policy database.


States Consider Timelines for 100 Percent EV Sales

Transportation remains the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in 22 states. To tackle emissions, states are working to reduce fossil fuel reliance and decrease the carbon intensity of transportation fuels, as is the case with Oregon’s newly effective Climate Protection Program (CPP) and low carbon fuel standard (LCFS)

Accelerating the transition to electric vehicles remains a major priority as well. California recently released a proposal, called Advanced Clean Cars II (ACC II), to eliminate the sale of new gasoline- and diesel-powered cars and light-duty trucks by 2035. ACC II sets an aggressive timeline for increasing the sale of EVs, starting at 35 percent of new vehicle sales in 2026, increasing to 68 percent of new sales in 2030 and to 100 percent in 2035. The state is planning to finalize the ACC II regulations in August of this year, setting the stage for what the future of car buying could look like in the U.S.

Massachusetts is required by law to adopt the same clean car standards as California, which has encouraged the state to move closer towards drafting the regulations. On an even more ambitious timeline, Washington State passed SB 5974 in late March, which sets a target to end the sale of new fossil fuel-powered vehicles by 2030.

With the falling costs of EVs, government incentives to help offset costs, and state and local efforts to build out EV charging infrastructure networks, widespread adoption of electric passenger vehicles presents less of a challenge than medium- and heavy-duty vehicles (MDHVs).

To address pollution from MDHVs, 15 states and Washington D.C. signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) committing them to achieve 100 percent sales of new electric trucks by 2050, with an interim target of 30 percent zero-emission vehicle sales by 2030. States have been working to formalize this commitment through legislative and administrative action since the MOU’s signing and have followed California’s lead in adopting the Advanced Clean Truck (ACT) rule. Oregon, Washington, New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts all approved the ACT rule late last year, and Maine is working towards an official rulemaking process this year.

Other Notable Updates

  • North Carolina Governor Cooper issued Executive Order 246 in early January 2022, establishing new greenhouse gas emissions targets. In addition to a 40 percent reduction by 2025, the state now has a goal of achieving a 50 percent reduction in emissions by 2030 relative to 2005 levels, and reaching net-zero emissions by 2050.
  • After years of legal battles and efforts by Republicans to block Pennsylvania from joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), the Wolf administration finalized regulations to join the soon-to-be 12 state initiative to cap and reduce emissions in the electricity sector. The state aims to participate starting in July, even as new legal challenges loom.
  • Washington State passed HB 1799, increasing its food waste reduction target from 50 percent to 75 percent below 2015 levels by 2030.