Texas, as the saying goes, has four seasons: drought, flood, blizzard, and twister. This old quip has hit a bit too close to home for Texans this year. We are less than two months removed from a devastating polar vortex that could yet prove to be the costliest disaster in state history. Weeks after enduring some of the coldest temperatures on record, Texans were greeted by an unusually early spring with temperatures creeping close to 100 degrees Farenheit across the state. Meanwhile, despite recent heavy rain almost all of Texas remains in a state of abnormal dryness or drought. And lest we forget, the weather whiplash of early 2021 comes straight on the heels of the most active hurricane season on record.
It’s in the context of these growing weather extremes that the occasion of Earth Day—celebrated worldwide today, April 22—takes on special significance. This year’s theme, Restore our Earth, focuses specifically on climate change, calling on us to protect and restore our ecosystems in the face of a warming planet.
For Texas, the past year of extremes provide a snapshot of what climate change means for the state—on a week-to-week, snowstorm-to-hurricane basis. Increasing climate variability will bring more droughts, wildfires, coastal erosion, and hurricanes.
Faced with these realities, addressing climate change requires strong and concerted policy solutions. Several bills in the the ongoing 2021 Texas Legislative Session show promise in leading the way on climate action. Here we showcase 10 notable climate-related bills filed in the current session (running from January 12 to May 31). Regardless of their fate, the emerging ideas in these bills provide an avenue to jumpstart conversations amongst our elected leaders and identify solutions to tackle climate change in our state.
Note: this is not intended as a comprehensive list of every bill touching on climate, water, greenhouse gas emissions, or energy efficiency during the current session. It is a sampling of a few legislative highlights that give a glimpse of some climate-related policy initiatives currently in process in Texas.
Two-thirds of Texas registered voters believe climate change is happening, so it tracks that there are proposed bills pushing bold policy developments (HB 1044, HB 1821, HB 2206), mainstreaming climate planning (HB 1949/SB 306), strengthening funding mechanisms (HB 2275, HB 963/SB 645, HB 1534), and supporting nature-based solutions (HB 2350) and other innovative green technologies (HB 2140) to address climate change. Importantly, several of these bills are doing this with strong equity considerations (HB 1534, HB 2206, HB 2275, HB 2350).
While these bills may not ultimately become the law of the land in Texas, the climate policy ideas introduced in the session are steps in the right direction and offer hope for a resilient future. For these reasons alone, there’s certainly cause to celebrate Earth Day in the Lone Star State!