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VIEWPOINT: Now is the time for strong action on climate change

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This month, countries across the world are coming together in Scotland for the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, to discuss how the world will address our climate crisis.

Sen. Stephanie Hansen | PHOTO COURTESY OF STATE OF DELAWARE

I have joined with more than 537 state legislators from 47 states and territories calling on the federal government to strengthen our national climate commitments under the international Paris Agreement treaty. The time for action is now. As the largest historical contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, the United States has a responsibility to do all that we can to reach net zero emissions by – or before – 2050.

As a state legislator, I see firsthand the impacts of climate change in Delaware – the lowest lying state in the nation where billions of dollars’ worth of private property and public infrastructure is being threatened by sea level rise and catastrophic storms. Across the country this year, we have seen historic damages from hurricanes and wildfires, droughts and flooding, heat waves and cold snaps. In our state alone, we have witnessed devastatingly powerful storms that have produced tornados and flooded out homes in Laurel, Seaford, Dover, Middletown, and Wilmington.

That’s why I convened a working group of environmentalists and businesses to reach a consensus on updates to Delaware’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, the state’s principal tool for reducing carbon emissions, which will now require 40% of our state’s energy to come from renewable sources by 2035. It’s why I passed legislation to expand the cost-savings and low-carbon footprint of solar power to more Delawareans. And it’s why I championed one successful measure after another to protect Delaware’s fragile ecosystem from the invasive species and plastic waste that are choking our natural environment.

Delaware isn’t acting alone. States across the country have been at the forefront of climate action while building the new clean energy economy and addressing systemic inequities. While state action is crucial, we can’t do this alone. States rely on the federal government to serve as a strong baseline for climate action. And our bold steps can serve as a roadmap for federal action. For example, more than two-thirds of U.S. states and territories have some form of Renewable Portfolio Standard or Clean Energy Standard, and more than a dozen have committed to 100% clean energy. States are also transitioning fleets to zero-emissions vehicles, making buildings more energy efficient, and protecting natural landscapes to enhance carbon sequestration.

Time and again, states continue to fill the void of climate action at the federal level. But in this critical moment, we must stand as united states. Together, with strong international, national, and state action, we can take the steps that are needed to avoid further climate catastrophe. That is why I encourage President Biden, U.S. Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons, and U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester to continue their fight against climate change. The federal government must lead by example in committing to and achieving full decarbonization, just as we are striving to do so at the state level.

State Sen. Stephanie Hansen (D-Middletown) is chair of the Senate Environment & Energy Committee and vice chair of the Senate Transportation Committee.

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