This article originally appeared on the Conservation Voters for Idaho website on April 25, 2019.

Clean energy and climate change policy has a long ways to go in Idaho, but we have taken important steps towards beginning the conversation, removing barriers, and setting goals.

In recent years, Conservation Voters for Idaho has increased its involvement in clean energy and climate change policy. That work has contributed to historic success in the Legislature and in commitments from Idaho’s largest utility company and its largest city committing to 100% clean energy.

In 2018, CVI endorsed and supported Brad Little as the pro-clean energy and pro-conservation gubernatorial candidate.

“I know the climate is changing… I’ve been here all my life. I’ve seen the climate change. The question is what do we do about it? What we do about it is what we’re doing in Idaho. We’re decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels, increasing alternative energies, utilizing our hydropower; we’re doing the things in Idaho that we need to do to where we keep our air clean.”

Future Governor Brad Little, 4/24/18, 2018 Gubernatorial Republican Primary Debate
Gov. Brad LIttle

Rep. Scott Bedke

Little’s vocal support for climate action changed the conversation in Idaho and opened new doors of opportunity at the Capitol this session. Governor Little reiterated his pro-conservation sentiments at the Idaho Environmental Forum (IEF) near the beginning of the 2019 legislative session. Also at the IEF, House Speaker, Scott Bedke signaled a willingness to engage in conversation about the impacts of “variations in long term weather patterns.” While he states that he and his colleagues aren’t in the same place as Governor Little on climate issues, Speaker Bedke acknowledged that things are changing in a very Idaho way by stating:

“I have fed the cattle in the snow, and I have fed them in the mud, and it’s become more mud lately.”

House Speaker Scott Bedke, 1/16/19, 2019 Idaho Environmental Forum

CVI helped facilitate these important conversations in the Statehouse with two important hearings. On Valentines Day, there was a hearing on electric vehicles and Governor Little officially declared February 14th as Electric Vehicle Day. A few weeks later, the Legislature took a monumental step forward by holding their first ever hearing on climate change and hosted experts from Hewlett Packard, the Idaho National Laboratory, Simplot, Boise State University and University of Idaho.

Simply starting the conversation on climate change and clean energy in Idaho were important accomplishments, but we saw those conversations turn into very real policy achievements. The Legislature passed a bipartisan bill to protect homeowners rights to place solar panels on their own property.

In addition to the legislation mentioned here, Governor Little’s leadership and the new willingness of the Legislature to engage in discussions related to conservation has helped foster a political climate for Idaho Power and the City of Boise to set aggressive goals to reach 100% clean energy by 2045 and 2035, respectively. These are monumental steps forward in a state where tackling climate change was unthinkable only a few years ago.

“The science is clear, the impacts are serious, and the need to act is essential.”

David Eichberg of Hewlett Packard, 3/6/19, First Official Hearing on Climate Change

It is early in the process, and there is a long path ahead, but seeing acknowledgment of the science and the impacts of climate change as well as commitments to act is an essential step forward. CVI will continue to work throughout Idaho to make sure those conversations continue to turn into action.