Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee for U.S. president, says she would expand the Obama administration’s climate goals, and “put the United States on track to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80% from 2005 levels by 2050,” the New York Times reports.
But she has avoided mentioning the “toxic” policy most experts say is essential to meet that goal.
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President Barack Obama pledged last December in Paris to reduce the United States’ greenhouse gas emissions by 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2025, and by 80% by 2050. Most analyses consider the first goal—but not the second one—achievable with modest executive branch adjustments to existing American policies.
Clinton also aspires to produce a third of the nation’s electricity from renewable sources by 2027—up from about 13% today, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That would be sooner than under Obama’s plan, but two years later than the 2025 goal the U.S. president adopted last week with Canada and Mexico for generating half of all of North America’s power (80% of it consumed in the U.S.) from zero-carbon sources, including nuclear.
Clinton promises to see half a billion solar panels installed by 2020, seven times the number today, the Times reported, while “$60 billion will go to states and cities to develop more climate-friendly infrastructure such as public transportation and energy-efficient buildings.”
Clinton claims that as president she could take these steps without the consent of a Congress that will likely be controlled by climate denialists. She would likely exercise powers under the Clean Air Act to issue sector-specific emission limits on airlines, oil and gas facilities, and cement manufacturers—the approach favoured by Canada’s former Conservative government.
But, the newspaper adds: “Mrs. Clinton has avoided mention of the one policy that economists widely see as the most effective way to tackle climate change: putting a price or tax on carbon dioxide emissions.”
“It’s possible, theoretically, to do all this without a price on carbon,” said David Victor, director of the UC San Diego Laboratory on International Law and Regulation, but “it’s hard to see how.
“The problem is, she knows the politics are toxic,” Victor adds. Like Canada’s Conservatives, many U.S. Republicans remain fiercely opposed to what they describe (contrary to experience) as a new tax that would hurt the economy.
“The overwhelming view of the people who have looked at this,” Jessica Tuchman Mathews, a past-president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told the paper, “is that there’s no way to get to the 2050 goal, and probably the near-term goal, without a carbon price. At the very least, it would be like attempting to climb a very steep mountain with one leg tied behind your back.”
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