RFF President and CEO Richard G. Newell reflects on major environmental developments from the past year and points to ongoing RFF research and outreach that’s been informing efforts to protect the planet.
With many of us avoiding crowds and sticking to indoor spaces for many months on end, the value of the outdoors has never felt so apparent, the importance of a healthy environment never so urgent. Clearer skies during the apex of COVID-related lockdowns made visible the impacts of emissions reductions—yet looking forward, we’ll need to achieve such reductions alongside a thriving economy.
Much has changed since the first Earth Day celebration 51 years ago, and much has changed for the health of the environment over just the past year. Along with RFF Board of Directors Chair Susan Tierney, I recently spent time talking with some of the nation’s leading thinkers about the challenges and opportunities ahead for climate-minded policymakers. From these conversations, I came away with a renewed sense of optimism that important progress is happening and that the world’s response to climate change is getting stronger. And as this week’s announcement of new Paris Agreement emissions reduction targets has made clear, the new administration is making ambitious environmental policy a priority.
RFF research and commentary are informing these policy discussions. Our Climate Insights 2020 report series reveals steady support from the public for the necessity of climate action, despite the past year’s economic and public health crises, and a growing segment who view climate change as “extremely personally important.” RFF research on the social cost of carbon—accessible in our blog posts, podcast episodes, and videos— suggests paths for progress as the Biden administration reassesses this metric over the coming year. Our Federal Climate Policy Toolkit explainer series is guiding federal policymakers who seek emissions reductions from the power, transportation, and industrial sectors—and beyond. And a report series on policy options for a just transition distills insights from over 100 policies that can support fossil fuel workers and communities in the shift to a low-carbon economy; indeed, our research has helped inform recent bills in Congress, and the White House has announced new measures that take into account our work related to plugging oil and gas wells.
Since the founding of our organization, RFF has been committed to offering research insights and engaging the policy process in pursuit of a healthy environment and thriving economy. This Earth Day and beyond, we’ll aim to continue informing the policy conversation and doing all we can to protect the health of the planet.