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A new climate plan

House Democrats are unveiling a new, ambitious climate plan. In June 2020, the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis unveiled a 547-page, sweeping climate plan that aims to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and net-negative emissions thereafter. 

Not only is the plan driven by science and economics, but it also centers environmental justice with an opening paragraph that addresses the unjust murder of George Floyd. The plan seeks to uplift Americans and support front-line and low-income communities that are disproportionately impacted by climate change. The focus on environmental justice highlights the power of the demonstrations sweeping across America and the impact of the lives lost to COVID-19.

While it doesn’t go as far as the Green New Deal, which includes commitments to job guarantees and universal health care, the plan keeps the US on track with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) recommendations to reach net zero emissions by 2050 in order to keep warming below 1.5°C.

Breaking down the 12 pillars

The Democrats’ Climate Plan includes 12 pillars to fight climate change and transition to a resilient, clean energy future. Here’s the breakdown:

Invest in infrastructure to build a just, equitable and resilient clean energy economy

Pillar 1 sets ambitious goals to eliminate emissions. First, it enacts a Clean Energy Standard to achieve net-zero emissions in the electricity sector by no later than 2040. Second, it aims for 100% of new sales to be zero-emissions vehicles by 2030 and heavy-duty trucks by 2040. Third, it aims to require all new residential and commercial infrastructure to be net-zero by 2030. This pillar also includes commitments to improving telecommunications infrastructure and reducing oil and gas pipeline leaks.

Drive innovation and deployment of clean energy and deep decarbonization technologies

Pillar 2 focuses the Department of Energy’s (DOE) responsibility to prioritize climate change. The plan suggests that the DOE creates loan guarantee programs and funding opportunities to drive research and development for clean energy technology. 

Transform US industry and expand domestic manufacturing of clean energy and zero-emission technologies

Pillar 3 creates performance standards for industry and expands access to loans, funds and tax incentives for investment in clean energy, clean vehicles and decarbonization technology. This pillar also boosts domestic manufacturing by reviving tax credits for clean energy and energy efficiency projects and requiring domestic manufacturing. This pillar also expands federal investment in carbon capture technology, development, and implementation.

Break down barriers for clean energy technologies

Pillar 4 incentivizes clean, renewable energy, but does not suggest how to repurpose and phase out fossil fuels. It includes two main provisions. First, revoking all “unnecessary” tax breaks and incentives for the oil and gas industry. Second, putting a price on carbon emissions so that energy generated from fossil fuels reflects the associated environmental costs. Revenue from carbon pricing would be used to reduce pollution from industrial facilities in neighborhoods disproportionately impacted by industrial emissions. Together, these strategies would increase the affordability and attractiveness of clean energy investments.  

Invest in America’s workers and build a fairer economy

Pillar 5 emphasizes labor protections throughout the transition to a clean energy economy. It requires that federal funds support projects that protect workers and uplift union rights. This pillar also protects coal industry veterans by providing health care access and creating jobs in mine restoration. 

Invest in disproportionately exposed communities to cut pollution and advance environmental justice

This pillar commits to prioritizing environmental justice in federal policy. This plan seeks to remedy the inequity and inequality exacerbated by climate change by funding research on the environmental justice impact of federal policy, prioritizing spending in neighborhoods disproportionately impacted by industrial emissions, and directly engaging with communities.

Improve public health and manage climate risks to health infrastructure

This pillar creates a comprehensive national response for health crises by shoring up medical supply chains, addressing the disproportionate health effects on front-line communities, and increasing climate resilience for hospitals.

Invest in American agriculture for climate solutions

Pillar 8 sets climate stewardship goals for agriculture and extends support to farmers voluntarily embracing sustainable agriculture. This pillar also emphasizes supporting new and underrepresented farmers, and encouraging farmers to resist using farmland for non-agricultural uses.

Make US communities more resilient to the impacts of climate change

This pillar creates a National Climate Adaptation Program, a Tribal Government Task Force, and Climate Risk Information Service among other programs to invest in climate adaptation and resilience while boosting local job growth.

Protect and restore America’s lands, waters, ocean and wildlife

Pillar 10 addresses the multitude of ecological impacts of climate change by combating everything from ocean acidification to restoring wetlands ecosystems to creating wildlife corridors that facilitate species migration. This pillar also re-establishes the Civilian Conservation Corps to protect America’s lands, waters, ocean and wildlife.

Confront climate risks to America’s national security and restore America’s leadership on the international stage

This pillar encourages foreign policy and defense departments to consider climate resiliency in foreign investment, aid and infrastructure development. It also highlights the importance of  climate resilient military infrastructure and the growing issue of climate-driven domestic and international migration.

Strengthen America’s core institutions to facilitate climate action.

Although it is more abstract than other sections, Pillar 12 makes crucial commitments to invest in climate and adaptation research,analyze the economic effects of climate change, and uphold and strengthen American democracy.

Will the climate plan work?

The Democrats’ Climate Plan is one of the most impressive proposals to combat climate change. Energy Innovation, an independent policy modeling company, finds the plan could meet its goals and projects a 37% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and net-zero carbon emissions by 2048 – ahead of schedule! The plan would also save 62,000 lives annually by 2050 and $8 trillion in health and climate costs.

Nevertheless, the plan faces fierce political opposition, and seems unlikely to pass in 2020. As November nears, expect to see more publicity on climate matters from political pundits. Some polls suggest the climate issue will be a contributing factor for voters come this Fall.

If voters do decide to prioritize climate action in the upcoming 2020 election, we can expect to see more federal climate action in the near future.

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