Democrats unveil bold new climate plan to phase out emissions by 2050

Democrats unveil bold new climate plan to phase out emissions by 2050

New Climate Plan – Emissions 2050

Carbon dioxide emissions from global fossil fuel combustion spiked to 36.57 billion metric tons in 2018 from 10.99 million metric tons in 1978[1]. Global temperature falls no less, and it is currently at 0.98° Celsius[2] , according to NASA.

The United States of America is the world’s second-largest per capita carbon emitter which apparently led to the formation of the bipartisan select committee on the climate crisis in January 2019 with the main ambition to recommend permanent solutions in the form of policies and strategies to the emission of greenhouse gases in the United States of America.

The House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis

The select committee was formed by the only woman speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, on January 9th, 2019, through House resolution 6, acknowledging the threat of climate change to publish a set of endorsements for congress to tackle climate action by March 31st, 2020.

Due to the novel COVID-19 pandemic the report was delayed and was published on June 30th, 2020 by the democrats titling it as “Solving the Climate Crisis: The congressional action plan for a clean energy economy, and a healthy, resilient and just America” after consulting with hundreds of stakeholders and scientists, and holding numerous hearings.

The house is led by the chair Kathy Castor who is the national leader on clean energy, environmental justice, and coastal protection, fighting President Trump’s anti-environmental policies. The rest of the members of the committee include eight democratic members and 5 Republican members, which is a clear minority for the republicans.

The Report

The climate crisis action plan, a 538-page report aims to be comprehensive and to collide with the recommendations of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Thus, putting out hundreds of recommendations centering on 12 key pillars, including policy solutions, the creation of clean energy jobs in rural & urban regions of the state and eventually reducing the emission of greenhouse gases.

Greenhouse Policy

Image credit: https://energyinnovation.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Modeling-the-Climate-Crisis-Action-Plan-FINAL.pdf

A non-partisan think tank, Energy Innovation Policy, and Technology LLC utilized their open-source energy policy simulator, aiding to model the emission reduction and co-benefits from implementing a subset of the select committee recommendations. The above chart would indicate the breakdown of reduction in greenhouse gas emission in the scenario if each of the mentioned policies were to be implemented. The simulation led to a four-point conclusion summarizing the results of the action plan is executed.

  1. Reduces net U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 37% below 2010 levels[3] in 2030 and 88% below 2010 levels in 2050. The remaining 12% of emissions come from the hardest to decarbonize sectors, such as heavy-duty and off-road transportation, industry, and agriculture.
  2. Leads the United States to reach net-zero carbon dioxide emissions before 2050, in line with the IPCC’s guidance on emissions reductions needed to limit warming to 1.5°C.
  3. Deliver significant health benefits, avoiding an estimated 62,000 premature deaths annually by 2050, primarily by reducing fine particulate matter pollution.
  4. By 2050, the cumulative estimated health and climate benefits are almost $8 trillion (real 2018 U.S. dollars).In 2050 alone, the estimated health and climate benefits exceed $1 trillion.

The 12 Pillars

  1. Invest in Infrastructure to Build a Just, Equitable, and Resilient Clean Energy Economy

The twelve pillars call for actions by the congress in every sector of the economy with the first being to enact a Clean Energy Standard to achieve net-zero emissions in the electricity sector by 2040 and an Energy Efficiency Resource Standard to smooth out rising electricity demand from electrification and save consumers money on their power bills. Congress must direct the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to develop a long-range transmission infrastructure strategy to site more interstate transmission lines in high-priority corridors and to create sustainable climate-resilient power grids.

The transportation sector, including Roadways, Airways, and Waterways, is the largest source of carbon dioxide emitters in the United States, as these sectors are heavily dependent on fuel. Roadways, including the production of cars, trucks, and buses, should be clean gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles. Congress should set a substantial greenhouse gas emission standard for heavy-duty trucks and aviation industry to achieve 100% sales of zero-emission cars or electric cars by 2035 and heavy-duty trucks by 2040 to build a clean infrastructure. Investment in clean, energy-efficient Mass transit would act as a solution for vulnerable communities who cannot afford other forms of clean vehicles.

  • Drive Innovation and Deployment of Clean Energy and Deep Decarbonization Technologies

The second pillar calls out for a policy to be implemented by the congress in support of the Mission Innovation, a global initiative to accelerate clean energy innovation by funding each stage of the process-research, development, demonstration and deployment of robust strategies to harness the temperature no more than 1.5 degree Celsius. It also recommends to reprioritize climate in the list of Department of Energy’s goals and commercialize regional partnerships and technology transfer for creating a better world. Creation of National Climate Bank to provide a loan guarantee for private institutions to adopt the yet-to-be-found decarbonization technologies and climate-resilient infrastructure and to demand any corporate disclosures related to climate risks. In order to eradicate energy poverty among the Environmental Justice Community[4], DOE Energy Justice and Democracy Program should be employed.

  • Transform U.S. Industry and Expand Domestic Manufacturing of Clean Energy and Zero-Emission Technologies

Carbon capture is one of the technologies which traps the carbon dioxide at its emission source and stores it to potentially grab out the ill-effects leading to greener energy. Manufacturing services & industries in the United States play a significant role in economic development and the major contributor to the emission of greenhouse gases. The industrial sector should be rebuilt by deploying zero-emission technologies like Carbon capture, electrification, low-emission hydrogen, etc. to establish the USA a global leader in this transformation. Emphasis on Buy Clean Program by the congress will boost the industrial sector for efficiency upgrades, process changes and retooling through the new financial structure of the state in the form of tax credit mechanisms and DoE grant programs. Domestic manufacturing of clean energy is the focus across the globe, and this would call for investment in Carbon removal R&D and create a market for the fuels made from carbon capture.

  • Break down Barriers for Clean Energy Technologies

The tax breaks given to large oil and gas companies to boost the economic growth should be repealed for the more significant benefit and to achieve the ultimate goal of creating clean energy jobs as a first step toward building a fairer tax code that supports reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 along with the price on carbon emission for the costs of unmitigated pollution. Congress should pair a price with policies to achieve measurable pollution reductions from facilities located in environmental justice communities and policies to ensure energy-intensive, trade-exposed industries do not face unfair competition from foreign competitors using dirty technologies.

  • Invest in America’s workers and Build a Fairer Economy

Smart climate policy must provide tangible benefits to economically vulnerable communities[5], and deliver good-paying, high-quality jobs, and accessible career pathways for all Americans. Building a clean energy economy can help put unemployed Americans back to better quality work through unions and relieve the economic crisis sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic. Congress should commit federal funding only to projects that meet strong labor standards. To support veterans of the coal industry and communities most affected by the economic transition away from fossil fuels, congress should establish a National Economic Transition Office to coordinate, scale-up, and target federal economic and workforce development assistance to frontline communities[6].

  • Invest in Disproportionately Exposed Communities to Cut Pollution and Advance Environmental Justice

Communities of color, low-income communities, and tribal and Indigenous communities “are disproportionately burdened by environmental hazards that include exposure to polluted air, waterways, and landscapes.” Engaging leaders from these communities early in the policymaking process and soliciting their expertise throughout is essential for ensuring the policies will work in their communities and benefit those most in need centering Environmental Justice. Congress should direct the Environmental Protection Agency to consider the cumulative pollution impacts of the facilities it permits; support federal and academic research of the cumulative and distributional impacts of federal climate, health, and environmental policy on environmental justice communities; collaborate with USDA, and NGOs to address food insecurity and adequate engagement.

  • Improve Public Health and Manage Climate Risks to Health Infrastructure

The impacts of climate change disproportionately affect the health of frontline communities and vulnerable populations who have fewer resources to cope with heatwaves, degraded air quality, flash flooding, infectious disease, and other threats. Too often, healthcare systems are not prepared or equipped to respond to large-scale events, as demonstrated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Congress should direct the Department of Health and Human Services to develop a national strategic action plan responding to include all the above climate-related health risks. Congress also should increase U.S. support for global surveillance and response to potential health threats; strengthen supply chains for health commodities; expand the capacity of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to support state, local, tribal, and territorial health departments in their climate-related work funding for programs to make health systems more resilient to climate impacts; and increase support to address the mental and emotional health effects of the climate crisis.

  • Invest in American Agriculture for Climate solutions

The eighth pillar insists congress invest in American agriculture in order to support the efforts of farmers and ranchers to employ climate stewardship practices like planting cover crops, diversified crop rotations, rotational grazing, and improve nutrient management to make the soil more resilient to extreme weather. The Department of Agriculture should incentivize and extend financial and technical assistance across all U.S. farmland to build a fair and climate-friendly food system by incorporating energy-efficient methods to combat food waste.

  • Make U.S. Communities More Resilient to the Impacts of Climate Change

Bridging the resilience gap will require substantial public and private investment and incorporation of climate risks into program design and priorities to ensure efficient use of funds. Asymmetric information should be taken into consideration by establishing a Climate Risk Information Service to develop localized climate risk information and embed climate risk projections in development of resilience codes, specifications, and standards and funding to build local capacities to confront the existential threats of rising seas, wildfires, and extreme weather. Congress should establish a National Climate Adaptation Program to deliver technical assistance to states, local governments, tribes, and territories (SLTT) along with a Tribal Government Task Force to act as a liaison for the environmental justice communities. Congress must dramatically increase and provide stable federal investment in pre-disaster mitigation and resilient disaster recovery to strengthen infrastructure against climate change disasters.

  • Protect and Restore America’s Lands, Waters, Ocean, and Wildlife

Forests & Blue carbon systems, including ocean, wetlands, and riverine ecosystems, is a proven, cost-effective way to deliver large scale CO2 reductions by establishing and national goal of protecting at least 30% of all U.S. lands and ocean areas by 2030 and to improve ecosystem resilience. Imposing a moratorium on all new fossil fuel leases on public lands addressing myriad issues related to ocean acidification & biodiversity decline; prioritizing national infrastructure for coastal resilience would act as a possible practical solution. These will reverse decades of deforestation, bolster the capacity of nature to store carbon and water pollution from land disturbance and extractive activities.

  • Confront Climate Risks to America’s National Security and Restore America’s Leadership on the International Stage

       The eleventh pillar calls for America’s national security and leadership on the international stage to confront climate risks and a future president committed to rejoining the Paris climate agreement. Congress should focus on delivering U.S. financial commitment to the green climate fund to advance clean energy and climate resilience in international missions and improve Arctic engagement and diplomacy as well.

  • Strengthen America’s Core Institutions to Facilitate Climate Actions

The final pillar to strengthen America’s core institutions lays emphasis on Climate Science, which serves as a foundation of national and international efforts to address the climate crisis. Congress should initiate federal support for climate literacy and STEM education by reviving the Office of Technology Assessment with non-partisan scientific and technical expertise. Unique services like the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and Congressional Research Service extended to the members of congress should be expanded to analyze and update the social cost of carbon and economic impacts related to risks of climate change.

Conclusion

         With the presidential elections hitting up on November 2020, the Democrats and Republicans are standing against each other with Joe Biden and Donald Trump as opposing candidates, and this Climate Crisis Action Plan has been released in times of COVID-19 pandemic justifying itself as it cannot wait due to the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration in May 2020 exceeding the highest monthly average ever recorded. This report claims to solve and revive the economy, which is hardly hit by the pandemic in terms of providing better quality, highly-paid clean jobs, a healthy, and resilient economy. BUT, only if these policies and recommendations are implemented by the congress in the best possible way with a bi-partisan agreement, considering it to be a far reach under the current GOP -rule. Crossing all hurdles and obstacles will build a stronger, healthier, and fairer America for everyone.

References

  1. https://climatecrisis.house.gov/sites/climatecrisis.house.gov/files/SCCC%20summary.pdf
  2. https://energyinnovation.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Modeling-the-Climate-Crisis-Action-Plan-FINAL.pdf
  3. https://bonamici.house.gov/sites/bonamici.house.gov/files/documents/Climate_Crisis_Action_Plan.pdf
  4. https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2020/06/30/pelosi-climate-plan/
  5. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jun/30/democrats-climate-stymied-political-divide

[1] Data according to a chart published on Dec 4, 2019 in https://www.statista.com/statistics/264699/worldwide-co2-emissions/.

[2] Quantitative Data as per the latest average annual anomaly published in https://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/global-temperature/ .

[3] 2010 levels are taken as base years because IPCC has taken the same in its recommendations.

[4] Definition as per Environmental Justice for All Act, Section 3– A community with significant representation of communities of color, low-income communities, or tribal and Indigenous communities, that experiences or is at risk of experiencing higher or more adverse human health or environmental effect

[5] A community in which climate change, pollution, or environmental destruction have exacerbated systemic racial, regional, social, environmental, and economic injustices by disproportionately affecting Indigenous peoples, communities of color, migrant communities, deindustrialized communities, depopulated rural communities, the poor, low-income workers, women, the elderly, the unhoused, people with disabilities, or youth

[6] A low income community, community of color, or tribal community that is already or could be disproportionately affected or burdened by climate change and its impacts.

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