Introducing: the 2021-2022
Climate Cabinet National Scorecard

By Nick Arnold, Legislative Program Manager

At Climate Cabinet Action, we know some of the most critical climate action happens at the state and local level. About 75% of our nation’s climate goals could be met if these state and local leaders take action. 

State Legislatures offer the great opportunity to accelerate climate action, but they can also be a place where progress dies. Whether it’s defining a path to a 100% clean electricity economy or creating equitable climate investments, the climate movement can’t ignore the need for pro-climate state governments.

That’s why we are proud to roll out the 2021-2022 Climate Cabinet National Scorecard.

Similar to past years, we processed legislative scorecards from state partners to select the top climate bills across 27 states – including Sierra Club, the League of Conservation Voters, and Clean Water Action. This bill list represents a key tool to evaluate how state legislators fall on key climate votes in state government. And when we say climate, we’re talking about passing clean energy investments, lowering pollution through building and transportation electrification, remediating and preventing future environmental justice problems, regulating other levels of government (preemption), and protecting – or undermining – democracy itself. 

Climate Legislation Considered across States:

Of the over 400 bills tracked across 27 states, we found:

The average share of pro-climate legislation was 97.78% in Democratic-controlled chambers, but only 33.37% in Republican-controlled chambers – a difference of over 60%. The data tell us that party control is a huge indicator of whether climate action can happen in state government.

That said, party control doesn’t determine action. While most Republican-controlled chambers voted on a majority of anti-climate bills, it’s worth pointing out – and celebrating – the Republican-controlled legislators that are fighting climate change. Examples include the Utah Senate & House and the South Carolina Senate & House – all heard over 70%+ pro-climate bills! 

The following maps show the percentage of bills that were scored pro-climate according to legislative chamber. The darkest green states voted on 100% pro-climate bills, while the darkest black states voted on 0% pro-climate, or 100% anti-climate, bills.

There were seven legislative chambers where zero of the tracked bills were pro-climate. This includes the Florida Senate & House, the Missouri Senate & House, the Pennsylvania Senate & House (GOP held until 2023), and the Wisconsin House. All seven were Republican-controlled.

There were ten states where all of the scored bills in both chambers were pro-climate: Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, Maine, Nevada, New York, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. All ten were Democratic-controlled. 

It’s worth pointing out this anecdote too: Upper chambers (usually state senates) perform similarly to lower chambers (usually house of representatives or assembly), with the average Senate chamber hearing 59.21% pro-climate bills compared to the average House hearing 62.01% pro-climate bills.

How Legislators are Voting on Climate

Of the thousands of legislators scored across 27 states, we found:

On average, Democratic state legislators vote pro-climate 95% of the time, while Republican state legislators vote pro-climate under 30% of the time. This is a partisan gap of over 65%, indicating a critical divide in who’s leading and who’s lagging on climate action.

The following maps show the average legislator score by state, party, and chamber. Similar to the above maps, the darkest green states mean state legislators of that chamber and party (e.g. upper chamber Democrats in the top left map) have 100% Climate Scores, while the darker black states mean legislators have 0% Climate Scores.

Taking a deeper dive – there are 1,538 Democratic state legislators with a 100% Climate Score (A+), 1,733 with A scores (90%+) and only 70 with less than a C (<70%). On the other hand, there are 547 Republican state legislators with a 0% Climate Score (F-), 1,567 with F scores (<50%) and only 176, or 5.3%, with a C or higher. 

When it comes to climate legislation, Democrats largely stick on the pro-climate side while Republicans largely stick on the anti-climate side. But that isn’t a universal rule: there is a larger share of Republicans voting somewhat pro-climate (7.5% with a C or higher) than there are Democrats voting somewhat anti-climate (2.1% with a D or lower)

In the chart below, you can see the partisan difference by chamber by state. The greener states represent a smaller partisan difference, as low as 5% in South Carolina, while the darker states represent a significant partisan difference, as high as 94% in Montana and Washington. 

Overall, there is a very clear divide between partisan caucuses on climate bills, meaning the majority governing the chamber is often the difference between a pro-climate chamber and an anti-climate chamber.

The following maps represent the difference between average partisan score for each state and chamber. The darkest black states mean there is a wide gap between the average Democrat and average Republican, while the darker green states mean there is little gap.

While this information is interesting at the chamber and party level, looking at the details underneath can also show us interesting patterns state-by-state. The swarm plots below show every legislator in all 27 scored states, illustrating which states have the highest partisan polarization, how clustered a partisan caucus is, and which legislators are breaking out of those partisan clusters. 

State context is key

Keep in mind: scores are not equal across states. The substance of bills and whether they’re pro-climate or anti-climate varies quite a bit – for example, an A+ score in Florida (where 0% of bills were pro-climate) means a legislator voted against anti-climate bills every time, while an A+ score in Colorado (where 100% of bills were pro-climate) means a legislator voted for pro-climate bills every time. The strength and scope of bills is different too. For example, Colorado’s House Bill 1286 establishes energy performance standards for large buildings, versus Ohio’s House Bill 2062, which sets efficiency standards for appliances. 

Additionally, not all legislators vote with their party every time. As the following swarm plots show, vote variation within a party is significant in some states, like South Carolina and West Virginia, and very small in other states, like Arizona, Missouri, and Wisconsin. In most states, Democrats are more clustered than Republicans and in the “A” range, while the distribution among Republicans often remains mostly in the “F” range. 

In conclusion

The big takeaways from 2021 and 2022 Legislative Sessions: the party that has the majority matters. While legislators across the ideological spectrum should be able to agree on the economic and health benefits of climate policy and the small-d democratic importance of protecting our democracy, unfortunately, it’s clear most Republican-controlled Legislatures are not moving in a climate-friendly direction even while some Republicans are voting that way. 

Prior to the National Scorecard, Climate Cabinet Education released a report highlighting how this legislative dynamic brought an impact to the national push for 100% clean electricity standards. That report can be found here

Climate action in state legislatures is a cornerstone to solving the climate crisis. Understanding what policy is being debated and voted on, and how individual legislators and their partisan caucuses are voting, is the best way to know where and how to put climate movement energy. The Climate Cabinet National Scorecard is the tool to make that happen.

An interactive version of these plots where you can see which legislator a dot represents, please visit:

Credit for developing the code that produces these swarm plot charts to Will Jarrett.


About Climate Cabinet Action: Climate Cabinet Action helps candidates run, win, and legislate on the climate crisis. We support climate champions up and down the ballot to ensure every elected office in America is held by an official fighting for a just and equitable clean energy transition that creates jobs and makes life better for all Americans.