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Public Affairs Trends: Climate Change Policy | by Electo Analytics | Jan, 2022


Electo Analytics

Welcome to the Climate Change Policy edition of Electo Analytics’ ‘Public Affairs Trends in 2022’. In this series, we highlight public affairs trends from a range of leading policy umbrellas. We collected insight and research to identify trends at the federal, state and local level.

In 2021, climate change policy rose to the forefront of the national consciousness in a practical manner. National talking points shifted from existential warnings to addressing specific policy proposals. Focus areas included economic growth, stronger health outcomes, infrastructure and investment in green resources. As such, some climate policy organizations earned more traction this year.

Through research and analysis, we gathered insight to establish six climate trends in public affairs for 2022.

In many regards, the federal government views climate change policy as the need to plan around climate and sustainability as a means for general survival and economic resilience.

Trend One: Public Opinion Reaches Ten Year Critical Mass

Research shows a ten year record: Public opinion embraces renewable energy by an overwhelming margin. Over 80% of Americans support a transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy. This figure remains steady from 2012, indicating strong support for renewable energy spanning a decade. A decade’s worth of support for renewable energy isn’t going anywhere. The Biden Administration alongside other federal agencies take such a favorable position as serious collateral for their own climate proposals. Public affairs teams might see public opinion on renewable energy as a gateway to other lobbying other types of climate policy with high favorability rates.

Trend Two: Electric Vehicles and Public Transportation Are In

According to the most recent data (2020), over 1.3 million electric vehicles are in use in the U.S. Compared to the 286 million registered gas powered vehicles in the country, EV’s seem like a fringe product.

Yet, as an emerging technology, EV’s have experienced exponential growth since 2010. It’s predicted that over 18.7 million will be in use by 2030. Electric vehicles are becoming more affordable and more accessible to the mainstream market. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Package (BIF) serves as an investment in that growth. Many potential EV buyers cite a lack of widespread battery chargers as reason not to buy. BIF includes $7.5 billion in funding for 500,000 EV charging stations nationwide. Some predict that with this level of investment, the number of EV’s on the road in 2030 will increase significantly from 18.7 million.

Additionally, BIF invests $89.9 million in funding for public transportation investments over the next five years. BIF spurred a large investment in energy efficient transportation. Public affairs teams have an opportunity to encourage fast-tracking development.

The most urgent state-level trend for a majority of stakeholders and policymakers alike: Weather disasters.

Trend One: Severe Weather Prevention is a Bi-Partisan Concern

Many conservative policymakers are keen on mitigating the risk of weather disasters, but not quite sold on the economic benefits of leaving oil and gas behind.

From hurricanes in the South and the Eastern Seaboard, wildfires out west, tornadoes in the Midwest and increased severity of blizzards and drought, every part of the U.S. is reeling from the intensifying effects of emergency weather. A majority of policymakers remain concerned about the impact of severe weather on their communities. Even in conservative regions, where elected officials historically remained indifferent to tackling climate change policy, the impact of disaster weather events can’t be ignored. However, there is a general partisan divide in opinion over how to approach the issue, namely in regards to transitioning away from the fossil fuel industry.

Since 1980, the United States has experienced 308 climate disasters involving a cost of $1 Billion or more (updated October 8, 2021). The total cost: Over $2.085 trillion.

Scientists predict severe weather will only worsen each year. The urgency to rally around severe weather mitigation is likely to rise to the top of many executive agendas. Policy teams looking to leverage the severe weather crisis to propel innovative solutions are in a strong position to achieve their goals at the state and local level.

Trend Two: The Cost-Benefit Analysis of Carbon Makes Headway On A State-Level

While the cost of carbon reliance is a national issue, it remains a state-level trend as each state deals with the acute impact of carbon usage unique to them. The cost of carbon reliance in Iowa differs from the impacts felt in New Mexico. Additionally, many states are looking at the impact as a state-level issue themselves, and addressing potential solutions from a state lens.

Research analyzing the true costs of fossil fuel use is now widely available. Several federal agencies and 12 states actively use the Social Cost of Carbon (SCC) model in climate policy calculations.

According to the Institute for Policy Integrity, “The social cost of carbon (SCC) is a metric designed to quantify and monetize climate damages, representing the net economic cost of carbon dioxide emissions”. Using a method involving three metrics, the SCC generates a formidable economic incentive regarding climate change policymaking. It’s used on a global, national and state scale.

Other states have taken this data into consideration through looking at the cost of emergency weather relief and repair, and similar economic metrics with large costs. As a result, 24 states and Washington D.C. already implemented greenhouse gas reduction targets.

The cost of fossil fuel emissions is far more expensive than many imagined. When compared to a society run on renewable energy and sustainable infrastructure, the immense economic ROI of leaving fossil fuels behind is undeniable. Economic incentive is a time-tested benefit to pushing statewide policy through. Public affairs teams should consider leveraging economic factors as part of their proposals.

Trend One: Cities will continue investment in green infrastructure

Towns and cities across the country continue to implement sustainable climate policies in all areas. Green infrastructure initiatives from building construction, energy efficiency, air and water quality and solar power are all important structural components to reducing emissions and lessening the burden of climate change on cities.

Cities as large as New York and as small as Ann Arbor all have a role in green infrastructure.

Philadelphia recently launched a large-scale green infrastructure plan. The 25 year cost is 1.2 billion, compared to a total of 6 billion if the city invested in “grey” infrastructure. Grey infrastructure refers to the emissions heavy design and construction models commonly used nationwide. Investment in green infrastructure is largely determined by municipal councils and zoning departments.

Keep In Mind: While investment in green infrastructure remains critical for sustainable development, in some ways, it just scratches the surface of a city’s potential to fully embrace sustainability. There is much room for innovation and creativity on the local level in public affairs.

Trend Two: Climate Change Policy Moves Even Faster Locally

While this sentiment has remained true for some time, the groundswell of local support for local climate change policy stands to grow significantly in 2022. The pandemic challenged all of us to rethink how we organize community structures, and local governments took notice of particular issues that had fallen through the cracks for decades. Poor air quality, high-carbon buildings, rates of asthma, and high energy bills are only some of the disparities forced into the spotlight. Now, many cities are innovating around urban and county development for a more sustainable future.

If your organization works on the local level, now is your time to keep pushing the envelope. While the federal government remains committed to climate reform, the White House doesn’t move fast. Conversely, local governments continue to experience high levels of productivity. Typically, they remain less concerned about climate as a partisan issue and more focused on the impacts of climate change on their municipality in real-time. Because local politics are more embedded in specific community issues, it’s easier to craft a tailored response voters and elected officials can get on board with.

Climate policy ideas are almost always means tested on a local level. If your organization needs case studies to prove your solution, start with municipal change.

Consider these trends as insight on which areas of climate change policy will pick up steam in 2022. Additionally, it’s useful to pay attention to what issues are rising in large-scale popularity on a grassroots level, as they may eventually become talking points for elected officials.

If your team works in climate change policy and would like a deeper policy strategy analysis for the coming year, we’re here to help. You can reach out to learn more about Electo Analytics Experts:

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