House lawmakers release bill to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050

Published on January 09, 2020 by Dave Kovaleski

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Congressional lawmakers released the framework for a new climate plan that seeks to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas pollution in the United States by 2050.

The Climate Leadership and Environmental Action for our Nation’s (CLEAN) Future Act details sector-specific solutions to address the climate crisis. Avoiding the most catastrophic outcomes of climate change requires cutting carbon pollution to net-zero by 2050, according to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The draft bill incorporates both proven and novel concepts to address climate change and presents policy proposals to put the U.S. on the path to a clean economy.

“Record wildfires, flooding, heatwaves, and drought have spelled out a dire reality: the climate crisis is here, and we can no longer afford to address this crisis along the margins. Today we are providing the kind of serious federal leadership this moment requires,” Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), one of the bill’s sponsors, said. “This plan represents our commitment to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas pollution. For the sake of the American people, the long-term sustainability of our economy, and public health, we must act boldly, and that is exactly what we intend to do.”

It was also sponsored by Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY) and Energy Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL).

“Meeting the climate crisis head-on is our only hope of avoiding grave and costly outcomes for our communities. Acting swiftly means we can still turn the looming climate threat into opportunity for economic growth and job creation as we build America’s clean energy and climate-resilient future,” Tonko said. “This legislation will be the top priority for my subcommittee this year.”

The Energy and Commerce Committee held 15 hearings addressing the climate crisis, including seven focused on how best to facilitate deep decarbonization of various sectors of our economy. The draft legislation includes proposals for each sector, including power, building, transportation, and industrial to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. It also includes directives for federal agencies and state governments to take measures to achieve that same goal.

“Combatting the climate crisis and creating clean energy solutions are indisputably connected. The framework we present today demonstrates to the world that — regardless of this Administration’s inaction — this Committee will act urgently to address this pressing issue with the entire U.S. economy in mind,” Rush said.

Further, it creates a National Climate Bank to help states, cities, communities, and companies in the transition to a clean economy. The bank will mobilize public and private investments to provide financing for low- and zero-emissions energy technologies, climate resiliency, building efficiency and electrification, industrial decarbonization, grid modernization, agriculture projects, and clean transportation.

The draft legislation drew praise from several industry groups, including the Edison Electric Institute (EEI).

“Overall, EEI’s member companies and the electric power sector have made significant progress in reducing carbon dioxide emissions. As of year-end 2018, EEI’s member companies have reduced their CO2 emissions approximately 37 percent below peak 2005 levels, outpacing the entire power sector’s impressive overall 27 percent reduction during that time. Collectively, EEI’s member companies are on a path to reduce carbon emissions 50 percent by 2030, and 80 percent by 2050, compared with 2005 levels,” EEI Executive Vice President for Public Policy and External Affairs Brian Wolff said. “We look forward to working with the House Energy & Commerce Committee in the coming weeks and months as it continues to flesh out the specifics of its legislative discussion drafts.”

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) also applauded the framework.

“U.S. House members unveiled a bold and necessary new plan today that could go a long way toward addressing climate change,” Steve Nadel, executive director of ACEEE, said. “Through months of stakeholder outreach, Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, D-N.J., crafted a strong proposal with important efficiency provisions, including annual updates to emissions standards for cars and trucks, building codes for zero energy ready homes and commercial buildings, a ‘buy clean’ requirement for industrial products purchased with federal funds, stronger appliance standards, home energy retrofits, electric vehicle infrastructure, low-income efficiency programs, a climate bank, and required state climate plans that should use utility efficiency programs to lower emissions.”

The full text of the draft of the bill will be released by the end of January with hearings and stakeholder meetings to follow.