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State Legislators Discuss Climate Issues at 2023 NCEL National Forum

A tipping point of climate-related disasters, this summer’s legacy has left us in the aftermath of wildfires, flooding and extreme heatwaves. Policymakers are under increasing pressure to present solutions to constituents.

One hundred state legislators from 39 states and territories convened for the annual National Caucus of Environmental Legislators (NCEL) National Forum in Indianapolis, Indiana, from Aug. 10 to 12. At such a forum, these legislators are committed to environmental preservation and conservation. Lasting three days, solution-based panels, breakouts, knowledge sharing and networking were held at the event.

According to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) the key takeaways are,

  • We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. While every state has their own flavor of politics and priorities—which sometimes requires policy customization—the general contours of environmental issues (i.e., the root cause and set of solutions) are largely universal across the country. There’s a deep and important need for expert practitioners to distill and disseminate best practices—ideally policies that have been successfully tested—to state legislators. Each forum panel concluded with examples of policies that had been introduced or enacted that seek to remediate the issue discussed, providing legislators with tangible solutions and template language to work from.
  • State legislators need help. Unlike congressional lawmakers who can lean on a large team of issue-based staff, state legislators often have only one or two staff members to help them research and write legislation. Considering that these staff members are also responsible for the legislator’s entire suite of priorities, it is imperative that state legislators lean on external subject matter experts for policy design. USGBC is a trusted resource for state legislators on building policy, helping to connect state policymakers to information, resources and technical assistance on building-related policy; sharing policy options and collecting examples for reference and replication; and identifying additional partners who can endorse and advocate for good building policies. For example, we offer a two-pager that contains a handful of resources relevant to state legislators.
  • We need holistic solutions. Many of the topics covered at the forum—environmental justice, plastic pollution, biodiversity loss, toxic chemicals, fossil fuel dependency—are interrelated, impressing the need for comprehensive solutions. LEED’s strength as a building certification system lies in its holistic nature with the flexibility to earn credits across a set of solutions, including public transit access, materials sourcing, habitat protection and more.

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