Earlier this week, Nevada released its State Climate Strategy plan.
The Nevada Climate Initiative has described the strategy as a "roadmap" to help the state deal with or combat climate change.
It was created after an executive order by Gov. Steve Sisolak in 2019 that charged the executive branch with identifying and evaluating the best climate policies and regulations to help Nevada achieve its climate goals.
Those goals were set by the Nevada Legislature in 2019, and they include reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 28 percent by 2025 and achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.
Kristen Averyt is the state policy coordinator for the Nevada Climate Initiative. She’s also a research professor in climate resilience and urban sustainability at UNLV.
“We really tried to take a holistic approach. We’re really about playing the long game when it comes to climate,” Averyt told KNPR's State of Nevada.
Averyt said the strategy sets up a framework for addressing the many facets of climate change in the dozens of sectors in the economy that impact climate from transportation and energy to residential and industrial.
“A key component of the strategy is evaluating a suite of different policies… that could be implemented in our state.”
The climate initiative identified 17 different policies that could be carried out in Nevada. They looked at regulations and policies that have been set up in other states that could be adapted for Nevada-specific issues.
Averyt explained that specific ideas include standards for clean car emission, low-carbon fuels, energy efficiency, programs that better manage energy demands during peak use periods and moving the state away from natural gas in energy production.
What the strategy does not include are specific bullet points for addressing the climate crisis. Averyt said that wasn't the climate initiative's intention.
“We’re laying out here’s the entire constellation of challenges that we need to really work through together in order to get to these solutions,” she said.
Because of the complexity of the issue, she said, it will take several different policies across all levels of governance to truly "decarbonize" our economy.
One of the key components of the state's climate strategy that differs from the framework set up by other states is the section on governance, Averyt said.
“Governance is about how we support these difficult discussions and how do we work at this cross-jurisdictional issue?” she said.
As an example, building codes are controlled by local and state governments, but energy is controlled by investor-owned companies. To address those intersecting issues, Averyt said the right people have to convene and have the right set of tools to work together on climate action, not at cross purposes.
While much of the year has been dominated by the coronavirus pandemic and its economic impacts, Averyt believes the post-COVID recovery will be an opportunity to rebuild the economy and address climate change.
Nevada is home to large stores of lithium that can be used to build batteries to store extra power and there is advanced manufacturing in the state to make those batteries, she said. Also, the state has the greatest potential for solar power production than any other state in the country and could be front and center in electrifying transportation.
“These are the kind of opportunities we can really look to,” Averyt said.
The strategy wasn't just created by a group of climate scientists. It included input through surveys and listening sessions from regular Nevadans concerned about the climate crisis.
“I was really impressed with the level of engagement and the contributions that we had from Nevadans across the state,” Averyt said.
In fact, the survey of Nevadans found 75 percent were "very concerned" about drought, extreme heat and other impacts of climate change. Averyt was surprised that so many people see climate action as a priority.
“People want to see action on climate despite what we’re going through with respect to COVID-19, but at the same time, as we recover from COVID-19 and the impact that it has had on our society and our economy, climate action can be part of the solution,” she said.
There has been some criticism of the strategy. Critics have charged that it does not do enough to address environmental injustice. Averyt pushed back on that charge.
She said during the listening sessions they heard from communities of color, low-income communities and indigenous communities about their concerns about pollution, electric vehicle and rooftop solar access, along with other concerns surrounding climate issues.
Averyt said those concerns were woven into the strategy.
“Just like every big issue that we layout in this strategy, we need everybody at the table to discuss these issues, and climate justice is one that is implicit and explicit in every single one of the complex issues as well as the specific mitigation policies that we layout,” she said.
Averyt believes there needs to be an all-hands-on-deck approach to addressing climate change, because it needs to be addressed immediately and comprehensively.
“The impacts of climate change are not going away and they will get worse and we have the opportunity by taking action to really change what the future looks like for our children and our grandchildren,” she said.
Kristen Averyt, State Climate Policy Coordinator, Nevada Climate Initiative
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