Executive Summary

The 2020 State Climate Strategy builds a foundation for future climate action under the State of Nevada Climate Initiative.

The overarching goals of the 2020 Climate Strategy are to:

  1. Provide a framework for reducing Nevada’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across all economic sectors
  2. Lay the groundwork for climate adaptation and resilience, and
  3. Establish a structure for continued, ongoing climate action across the state.

CLIMATE CHANGE HAS COME HOME TO NEVADA

“Home Means Nevada,” and climate change has hit home. Already, droughts have grown more severe, the snowpack is disappearing, and water supplies are at risk. As temperatures continue to rise, heat waves are expected to increase in frequency and duration, posing significant risks to the health of urban communities—particularly vulnerable populations and outdoor workers. Air quality is already a concern across the state, and increasing risks of wildfire and drought, combined with more heat, could create additional health problems related to air pollution. 

Swift action must be taken to proactively bolster climate adaptation and resilience planning and to reduce GHG emissions. By acting on climate, the state can move toward addressing Nevadans’ concerns and build a better future with cleaner air, better health, an equitable society, economic stability, renewable energy, and a cleaner environment for everyone.

Climate Justice

Across the United States and in Nevada, low-income communities, people of color, and Indigenous populations have disproportionately borne the burden of climate change impacts. As temperatures continue to rise and climate-related challenges expand and intensify, particular attention must be paid to these vulnerable populations. Through climate action, there is the opportunity to reconcile the social justice challenges Nevadans face.

CLIMATE ACTION

With the vision of ensuring a vibrant, climate-resilient future for Nevada, Governor Sisolak launched the State of Nevada Climate Initiative (NCI) in the summer of 2020. As the home of Nevada-wide climate action, the NCI is committed to reducing Nevada’s GHG emissions and dedicated to achieving resilient communities that are prepared to successfully adapt to a changing environment and climate.

Under Gov. Sisolak’s executive order on climate change, state agencies were directed to develop Nevada’s first-ever State Climate Strategy establishing a framework to advance Nevada-wide climate action for a healthy, sustainable, resilient future. The State Climate Strategy was developed using the best available science, combined with robust input from thousands of Nevadans through a series of listening sessions on a full range of climate topics, a climate survey, consultation with subject-matter experts, stakeholder convenings, webinars, and more.

2020 STATE CLIMATE STRATEGY SNAPSHOT

THE PATH TO REACH NET-ZERO GHG EMISSIONS BY 2050

New mitigation-focused policies, programs, investments, and regulations are needed to put the state on the path toward realizing net-zero GHG emissions by 2050.

Nevada is committed to reducing GHG emissions, which contribute directly to climate change. With the passage of SB 254 in 2019, Nevada adopted aggressive GHG emissions-reduction targets: 28% by 2025, 45% by 2030, and net-zero (near-zero) by 2050. These targets are in line with neighboring states in the region and are an important step toward managing climate change. Nevada has a jump start on meeting these targets by embracing its abundant renewable resources to generate clean electricity under the state’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS). However, there is still much work to do across all sectors of Nevada’s economy.

Nevada’s GHG emissions inventory mirrors trends occurring across the western United States, where transportation-sector emissions (35%) now exceed those from the energy sector (32%), historically the largest source of GHG emissions. Industrial, residential, and commercial emissions are growing rapidly, while those associated with other sectors remain relative consistent. To reduce and ultimately eliminate GHG emissions, Nevada will need to take bold and decisive action.

Under current policies and based on the best available science, Nevada is currently on a path to reduce economy-wide GHG emissions 24% by 2025 (4% short of the 28% goal) and 26% by 2030 (19% short of the 45% goal), thus missing the emissions-reduction goals. Consequently, new mitigation-focused policies, programs, investments, and regulations are needed to put the state on the path toward realizing net-zero GHG emissions by 2050.

The 2020 State Climate Strategy informs policymaking on how Nevada will achieve the ambitious targets established by SB 254 and provides an integrated framework for evaluating climate policies that make sense for Nevada. Given the complexities of climate change, it is imperative that policies to reduce GHG emissions be approached systematically so there is a clear understanding of the benefits and tradeoffs. This will optimize each given policy’s effectiveness and maximize the benefits for all Nevadans.

Climate Mitigation Policy Evaluation Framework

The 2020 State Climate Strategy is a living document. This framework will continue to be applied and the NCI working groups will continue their evaluation of new and existing policies, and will provide additional reports in the future that may include periodic reassessment as new information emerges. This approach provides a mechanism to track progress while providing a roadmap for where investments may be needed to ensure the adoption of robust and sound policies. The four metrics comprising the framework are focused on GHG emissions, climate justice, fiscal issues, and pathways to implementation.

Metric 1: GHG Emissions-Reduction Potential: What emissions reductions can be achieved, and on what timeline, by implementing the policy?

Metric 2: Climate Justice Considerations: Have communities of color, low-income households, and tribal partners (i.e., Indigenous communities) been directly engaged and consulted about the challenges and opportunities associated with the policy? Will the policy avoid any negative impacts to vulnerable communities, provide the opportunity for a net benefit, and/or reconcile broader social justice issues?

Metric 3: Budgetary & Economic Implications: What are the resources needed for implementation and administration of the policy? What is the long-term return on the investment?

Metric 4: Implementation Feasibility: What are the legal barriers to implementation of the policy?

The policies and programs evaluated are organized by emissions sector.

Transportation  Transportation

  • Adopt low- and zero-emissions vehicle standards
  • Implement clean truck program
  • Adopt low-carbon fuel standards
  • Implement state car allowance rebate system (“Cash for Clunkers”)
  • Close emissions inspection loopholes for classic cars license plates

Electricity  Electricity

  • Transition from fossil-fueled electricity generation to clean energy sources
  • Require GHG reduction plans and prioritize decarbonization in utility integrated resource plans (IRPs)
  • Prioritize energy efficiency and demand response programs

Electricity  Industry

  • Replace, capture, and recycle ozone-depleting substance substitutes

Residential  Residential & Commercial  

  • Adopt appliance and equipment efficiency standards
  • Implement a statewide benchmarking program
  • Require residential energy labeling and energy audits
  • Adopt energy codes for net-zero buildings
  • Expand the property-assessed clean energy (PACE) program
  • Expand energy savings performance contracting (ESPC)
  • Transition from residential and commercial use of gas

Land Use Construction  Land Use & Land Change

  • Expand urban forestry programs

MONITORING, MODELING, AND MANAGING GHG EMISSIONS

To support a comprehensive and consistent evaluation of GHG emissions-reduction benefits from policies across the state, the State of Nevada’s capability to inventory GHG emissions would need to expand. To optimize resources invested, a consistent framework is needed for estimating a policy’s potential GHG emissions reductions and for monitoring the efficacy once a policy is adopted.

NAVIGATING THE COMPLEXITIES OF CLIMATE CHANGE

Harmonization of local, regional, state, and oftentimes federal policies is necessary in order to realize significant GHG reductions. Consequently, climate mitigation policies must be considered in a broad context that engages multiple sectors and various levels of governance. Identifying and addressing interconnected issues will help avoid conflicting policies, optimize investments, bolster the resilience of infrastructure and communities across the state, and ensure that Nevada achieves net-zero GHG emissions.

NEVADA’S CLIMATE GOVERNANCE

State governments across the United States committed to climate action have adopted different governance approaches to address climate change within their organizational structures. While there are multiple climate governance options that could be implemented, the following guiding principles—based on positive experiences from other states—should be considered in a design appropriate for Nevada.

Leading by Example

The State of Nevada has myriad opportunities to lead by example on climate action. The executive branch has the capability to adopt policies that will reduce GHG emissions—an important step given the extent of state-owned assets.

The Nevada Department of Transportation developed a roadmap to achieve net-zero emissions that can be adapted by other agencies and departments. They outline a process for developing and adopting internal policies and a strategic plan to reduce their GHG emissions across operations, construction, and planning. Taking action will require resources, but there will be a return on these investments in the form of savings on energy, water, and fuel.

INVESTING IN A CLIMATE-FRIENDLY FUTURE

Climate action is not a revenue-neutral proposition. However, by meeting the state’s emission reduction targets, Nevada would prevent between $172 and $786 million of economic damages by 2030 and up to $4 billion by 2050. Investing in climate mitigation policies and strategies will also save untold lives, improve the health of Nevada’s communities, and create a stronger workforce.

Climate action and economic development activities in Nevada are intrinsically linked and can be strategically integrated to achieve their respective goals. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted both the linkage between environmental quality and public health threats to Nevada’s communities, and the precariousness of the current economic situation. As Nevada emerges from the pandemic, the co-development of an economic recovery framework and strategy will prepare the state and its businesses for climate impacts at multiple scales by growing and sustaining the sharing of climate science, information, and resources.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted both the linkage between environmental quality and public health threats to Nevada’s communities, and the precariousness of the current economic situation. As Nevada emerges from the pandemic, the co-development of an economic recovery framework and strategy will prepare the state and its businesses for climate impacts at multiple scales by growing and sustaining the sharing of climate science, information, and resources.

Climate-conscious economic development efforts and investments can spur the expansion of renewable energy, reduce emissions, build climate resilience, and expand the use of sustainable resources, all while creating valuable new jobs and skilled workforces.

Developing policies aimed at reducing GHG emissions in concert with framing workforce training and retraining programs that are aligned with Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) goals can create new jobs and bolster the state’s economic diversification strategy and recovery. Nevada’s research and innovation enterprise can also be leveraged by expanding engagement with private industry, by building partnerships with new and emerging clean and green innovators in renewable energy, air/water quality technology sectors, supply chains, and business incubation.

NEVADA’S CLIMATE LEGACY

Under the leadership of Gov. Sisolak, Nevada is accelerating efforts to achieve a clean, sustainable, and climate-resilient future for all Nevadans. The State Climate Strategy is just the beginning of Nevada’s long-term commitment to combating climate change. The State Climate Strategy outlines a framework designed to evaluate the alignment of climate-conscious policies, feasibility, and readiness levels necessary for Nevada to achieve its GHG emissions-reduction goals and advance climate-forward solutions for the Silver State.