A bill in the Alaska House of Representatives, HR 12, would have taken a tangible step toward climate policy solutions by forming a special committee on climate change. HR 12, unfortunately, appears to have died in committee. If you visit the bill’s webpage and click on “Display Committee Actions,” you’ll see that the bill was scheduled for a meeting on February 3, but that meeting was subsequently cancelled. Because there is no next step scheduled for HR 12, we can reasonably assume that the committee will not vote on it, will not pass it through committee, and it will not advance to the entirety of the Alaska House of Representatives for a floor vote. While disappointing, this is not an uncommon fate for many bills and resolutions.
Alaska political action on climate change tends to stall out. In 2007, Governor Palin formed a Climate Change sub-cabinet, before she later became a passionate climate change denier. In 2009, Governor Parnell discontinued the sub-cabinet. In 2015, Governor Walker put together a Climate Action Leadership Team, which presented him with an Alaska Climate Action Plan. Governor Dunleavy has since disbanded the team and erased reference to the plan in the state of Alaska’s webpages. In the legislature, elected officials tried to encourage Governor Walker’s climate actions, but just like HR 12, those bills did not make it through committee.
But more and more Alaskans are demanding climate action from their elected leaders. Several communities, including Anchorage, are already putting together and implementing climate action plans. And in the public hearing for HR 12, a total of 36 people testified from across the state, all in support. In addition, more than 100 emails supporting the bill were sent to the committee. About 80 Audubon members were among those writing in. We already know that climate change is having social, economic, and ecological impacts, and we recognize that the time has come to do something about it.
Addressing climate change is a clear bipartisan issue. Coastal erosion, salmon die-offs, and wildfires impact people of all political parties. And it doesn’t matter whether you use the term “climate change” or “energy efficiency” to explain the reason why you care. What matters is finding opportunities to mitigate carbon emissions and solutions for adapting to a changing climate. Everyone in Alaska is feeling the effects of climate change, which means all of our state’s elected officials should care about those impacts to their constituents.
If HR 12 had passed, it would have formed a special committee on climate policy. But there are still other options open to the legislature, and to the voters who can press their elected officials to start acting on climate change. Interested legislators could form a climate change task force to tackle climate issues. Legislative committees can use climate change as a lens through which they view other bills. And committees can consider climate-related topics such as energy transmission, geothermal energy, air quality improvements, and the budgetary realities of the 2019 wildfires. Audubon Alaska will continue to be engaged and will bring you updates on climate change policy actions that impact Alaska’s birds, wildlife, and communities.
If you are an Alaska resident, you can always contact your elected officials by going to akleg.gov and scrolling down to “Who Represents Me?”