For Immediate Release, December 2, 2020

Contact:

Patrick Donnelly, (702) 483-0449, pdonnelly@biologicaldiversity.org

Nevada Releases Flawed Climate Strategy

Bold Ideas Overshadowed by Lack of Policies to Promote Climate Justice

LAS VEGAS— Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak and the Nevada Climate Initiative released the state’s climate strategy late Tuesday. This is an important milestone in the state’s march toward decarbonization, as mandated by 2019’s Senate Bill 254.

While some of the proposed policies will result in significant emissions reductions, the strategy is flawed by its lack of policies focused on climate justice.

The Nevada Climate Initiative conducted numerous listening sessions before creating the strategy, and one clear theme emerged: Nevadans care deeply about climate justice. However, while the strategy includes climate justice as an evaluation standard for items on the policy menu, many policies do little or nothing to address decades of environmental injustice in Nevada.

The strategy contains a mix of standards, incentives and market mechanisms to attempt to reduce the state’s carbon emissions by 28% from 2005 levels by 2025; 45% by 2030; and net-zero emissions by 2050, as required by S.B. 254.

Strongest among the strategy’s policy menu items is the mandate to transition away from superpolluting methane gas in residential and commercial buildings. Gas is used for heating and cooking and constitutes the vast majority of non-electricity emissions from buildings.

“We applaud Gov. Sisolak and the Climate Initiative for taking the truly bold step of putting Nevada on a path to kick dirty fracked methane gas,” said Patrick Donnelly, the Center for Biological Diversity’s Nevada state director. “The only livable future is one that has no fossil fuels, and gas is the elephant in the room. Gov. Sisolak has shown political courage by taking a stand on this issue.”

But one of the strategy’s major weaknesses is its lack of any policies geared toward democratizing energy production. While the strategy calls for a 100% renewable portfolio standard for carbon-free electricity, it does not contain any policies to ensure that the renewable energy transition is democratic, distributed and won’t unduly harm the environment.

“Nevadans want to generate electricity on our roofs, not in open and undisturbed desert ecosystems,” said Donnelly. “The Nevada Climate Strategy falls woefully short of promoting democratized energy solutions, and its policy menu literally doesn’t even mention rooftop solar. Energy democratization and universal rooftop solar won’t happen on their own, and the governor has kicked the can down the road on ensuring that our renewable energy transition is primarily for the benefit of people.”

Another key flaw is the strategy’s failure to address environmental inequities in urban planning. Las Vegas is ranked the most intense heat island in the country, with the largest difference between urban and rural temperatures. Urban Las Vegas — populated primarily by people of color — has average temperatures rising faster than anywhere in the country, up nearly six degrees since 1970.

Yet Clark County politicians are doubling down on environmental injustice by directing resources to affluent sprawl developments in the desert that will continue to worsen greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.

“Low-income communities of color bear the burden of the heat-island effect, and the state strategy does nothing about it except planting some trees,” said Donnelly. “Trees are great, but we need to address the systemic inequalities that directly and disproportionately affect urban centers.”

The Nevada Climate Initiative referred to the strategy as a “living document,” which presumably will be updated over time.

“The Nevada Climate Strategy is a good start toward putting us on a path toward decarbonization,” said Donnelly. “But we have so much further to go. We need bold policies that radically reshape our interaction with the natural world and each other to truly address the climate crisis. While the Nevada Climate Strategy is a good start, it doesn’t come close to being strong enough, or equitable enough, to beat climate change while addressing the systemic inequities that caused the climate crisis to begin with.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.