And The Winner Is…Local Ballot Initiatives on Climate and Environment

Graphic: Annabel Driussi for Our Daily Planet

OK so there may not have been a big blue wave at the federal level this week, but several ballot initiatives at the state and local level proved that when climate and conservation actually were on the ballot, they won.  For example, voters in Denver supported a sales tax increase to address climate change issues in the city.  It is projected to raise $720 million over the next 20 years to pay for energy efficiency, transportation, and environmental justice priorities.  Parks and land conservation ballot initiatives were also big winners.  Cities like Portland, Toledo, and Columbus all voted to spend tens of millions on park maintenance and creation.  And most impressively, in Nevada, voters agreed to amend the state’s constitution to mandate that the state’s electricity providers shift to at least 50 percent renewable energy by 2030.

Why This Matters: Regardless of what happens at the federal level, measures like these at the state and local level are the key to achieving 30% of the land and waters in the U.S. protected from development by 2030, as well as to combatting climate change.  These local initiatives are likely to educate and engage the public in implementing the policies we need to conserve our planet.  They are feeling the impacts in their cities and towns, and these ballot initiatives empower them to be part of the solutions as well.

Big Winners

While the polls on candidate races were wrong to the detriment of Democrats, the polling we have seen before the election for climate and conservation is consistent with the margin of victory for these state and local ballot initiatives.  For example, the Nevada constitutional amendment passed with more than 56% of the vote.  Here are some other highlights:

Michigan passed a measure to protect the state’s water, wildlife, and parks through the use of the state’s Natural Resource Trust Fund and the State Park Endowment Fund, which have pumped over $1 billion into land conservation.

Colorado passed a measure creating two new water districts—one encompassing 15 counties on the West Slope and another encompassing three counties north of Denver—to ensure there sufficient clean water for biodiversity, farmers, ranchers, and the city, as well as water education programs.

Hays County, Texas passed a measure to spend $75 million for the conservation of critical tracts of land and for protection of the Edwards Aquifer, a major drinking water source for San Antonio and Central Texas.

According to The Nature Conservancy, all together, seven states passed ballot measures that will provide $2.2 billion for forward-looking policies to protect nature and help address climate change.

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