A climate plan released this week by Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives is receiving wide acknowledgement as a sweeping proposal that would bring the country’s greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050, promote renewable energy, address environmental harms that fall disproportionately on poor and racialized communities, and implement much of the Green New Deal.
“The 547-page staff report from the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis outlines a plan for the U.S. power sector to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2040, allowing an economy-wide reduction through building, transportation, and industrial electrification by 2050,” Utility Dive reports. “Notably, the report does not call for an end to natural gas fracking or even explicitly call for an end to coal-fired power, and it leaves the door open for carbon capture technology and nuclear power to play a role in a net zero-carbon grid.”
“The package of more than 120 pieces of legislation seeks to drive a transition to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, achieved by reaching into every corner of the U.S. economy with new investments, standards and incentives favouring clean energy, job creation, lands protection, and environmental justice,” InsideClimate News reports. “While the plan has no chance of coming to fruition in the current Congress, its endorsement by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and moderate Democrats sets a marker for what is possible if the Democrats gain control of the government next year.”
The plan contains “additional directives on agriculture, environmental justice, lands, oceans and wildlife, public health, and more,” Utility Dive adds, with the aim of eliminating five gigatons of greenhouse gas emissions per year by 2050. It calls for the U.S. Congress to adopt a national clean energy standard with a 2050 deadline to rely only on zero-emission sources, and to instruct the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to “develop a transmission strategy and remove barriers to renewable energy from the wholesale power markets.”
“Most importantly, especially now, the report connects the dots between racial inequity and rising temperatures,” Grist writes. “Climate change is already [having an impact on] low-income communities and people of colour. The report includes a long list of policy proposals to alleviate that burden. The list includes allocating funds to decarbonize and retrofit all public housing in the U.S., boosting federal funding for residential solar projects that would help poor communities pay for clean energy, and increasing tax credits and efficiency incentives for developers building affordable housing.”
The plan landed well with some but not all of the community-based groups that have been pushing the Democrats toward a more ambitious position on climate and decarbonization.
“This is the most comprehensive plan that Congress has ever put forward,” Brad Townsend, managing director for strategic initiatives at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, told Utility Dive. “We’re finally starting to have a conversation about action at the scale that will be necessary to avert the worst impacts of climate change.”
Sunrise Movement Legislative Manager Lauren Maunus called the plan the most ambition the community has seen from Democratic leadership so far, and “a real sign that young people are changing politics in this country and the establishment is scrambling to catch up,” although “it still needs to go further to match the full scale of the crisis.”
But others couldn’t get past the Democrats’ silence on a fracking ban, an end to fossil fuel exports and imports of fossil fuels, and an immediate halt to new fossil fuel infrastructure such as pipelines, InsideClimate writes. “This climate proposal inexplicably and inexcusably fails to call for a halt to the extraction of fossil fuels,” said Food & Water Action Policy Director Mitch Jones. “It is simply not an adequate attempt to deal with the crisis we actually face.”
“With less than 10 years to keep warming at below 1.5°C, the plan’s targets for phasing out emissions need to be stronger,” said Natalie Mebane, associate director of U.S. policy at 350.org. “Specifically, these plans need to go further on regulating and phasing out fossil fuel production, with clear target dates for the elimination of all fossil fuel expansion and subsidies.”
Several news reports had some Republicans getting onboard with some aspects of the Democrats’ plan, with Utility Dive noting past GOP support for boosting transmission infrastructure and resilience. “There’s elements of it that we agree with and that I think many Republicans could agree on, too,” Quillan Robinson, vice president of government affairs at the Republican-leaning American Conservation Coalition, told Grist.
Robinson and other Republicans pointed out the Select Committee report had been produced by the Democratic majority on the committee, with no input from Republican members. “The whole purpose of the committee was to bring Republicans and Democrats together and develop some common ground policies to charter a path forward,” he said. But Sam Ricketts, who served as climate director on Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s presidential campaign, told Grist he wasn’t so sure it was Democrats’ choice to leave their Republican colleagues out of the loop.
“The leader of the Republican party doesn’t just believe that climate change doesn’t exist, he called this pandemic that has killed 120,000-plus Americans a hoax,” he said. “It’s unfortunate, but it is a reality that only one party believes in not only confronting this crisis but that it exists at all.”
Congressional Republicans immediately rejected the Democratic blueprint, The Associated Press reports, with Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) calling it a plan that “punishes the American economy” and “gives a free pass to China” to pollute.