Hal Harvey’s Insights And Updates: Congressional Climate Plan Is A Bet Your Country Moment

America faces a bet-your-country moment. Much of this beautiful, prosperous, and bountiful country will become unrecognizable unless we act, promptly and seriously, to limit climate change.

Despite clean energy’s economic and job opportunities, and scientific warnings that net zero emissions are needed by 2050 to prevent the worst impacts of climate change, Trump’s federal government has worked to implement policies that increase pollution.

Fortunately, for the first time in history, Members of Congress have produced a comprehensive plan to decarbonize the entire U.S. economy, while bringing U.S. emissions to net zero by 2050.

The U.S. House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, created to deliver comprehensive climate policy recommendations for Congress to act upon, has released their recommendations in a report titled Solving the Climate Crisis: The Congressional Action Plan for a Clean Energy Economy and a Healthy, Resilient and Just America.

After months of hearings with climate and energy experts from across the country, meetings with myriad industry leaders, and careful research, this document outlines a detailed strategy to bring the world’s largest economy to net zero emissions by mid-century.

The work is remarkable not only because it is comprehensive and ambitious. It is also designed, at its core, to generate economic and health benefits. The report contains sections on transition assistance for coal miners. It covers frontline communities, currently saddled with exposure from toxic fumes and more. It is keenly attuned to the health benefits of a clean energy future.

In other words, justice and equity are at the core of its design.

In Select Committee testimony last year, I had the opportunity to lay out the large-scale, fast actions Congress could take to cut emissions while strengthening our communities and economy. Before the report was released, the Select Committee requested an Energy Innovation analysis of a subset of their recommendations to determine their impact.

Using our non-partisan and peer-reviewed Energy Policy Simulator (EPS) to model key Climate Crisis Action Plan recommendations, we found they would transform the U.S. energy system through an 88 percent reduction in net GHG emissions compared to 2010 levels by 2050, with carbon dioxide emissions reaching net zero in 2048. The package of policies would also avoid an estimated 62,000 premature deaths annually by 2050 and deliver nearly $8 trillion in climate and health benefits by 2050.

This brighter future is ours for the taking.

Net U.S. Greenhouse Gas Reductions By Policy

Net U.S. greenhouse gas reductions by policy under Select Committee on the Climate Crisis Action Plan

We recently held a webinar with Select Committee staff to discuss the Climate Crisis Action Plan and our modeling and methodology, covering topics like clean electricity, industrial sector decarbonization, transportation and building sector electrification, and more.

Clean electricity by 2040

The Climate Crisis Action Plan includes a 100 percent by 2040 clean electricity standard – generating the plan’s largest emissions reductions. Our modeling assumes the power sector reaches roughly 90 percent clean electricity by 2035, aligning with our recent report with the University of California – Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy, which showed a 90 percent by 2035 clean electricity standard would create 530,000 jobs annually through 2035. Pairing this clean electricity buildout with policies promoting transmission and battery storage helps maintain grid reliability and flexibility.

Industrial sector decarbonization is key to net zero U.S. emissions

Industrial sector decarbonization policies are particularly important to reaching net zero, as industry is directly responsible for 29 percent of U.S. emissions. The Climate Crisis Action Plan recommends tradable performance standards that set emissions intensity benchmarks in line with net zero emissions by 2050. Although the particular technological pathways to meet these targets are not yet clear given today’s technologies and economics, the Select Committee’s recommended policy would set a clear market signal to help figure this out, jump-starting learning curves for new technologies.

Electrification drives down transportation and building sector emissions

The Select Committee also proposes zero emission vehicle targets and vehicle emissions standards in line with net zero by 2050. To decarbonize buildings – responsible for nearly 40 percent of U.S. emissions – the Climate Crisis Action Plan calls for rebates to shift building component sales to 100 percent electric by 2035, delivering the largest share of building sector abatement. Efficiency incentives and rebates for residential home retrofits drive additional emissions reductions.

While the modeled recommendations propel the U.S. most of the way to net zero GHG emissions by 2050, some emissions remain in industry, transportation, and agriculture. So the Climate Crisis Action Plan includes additional policies to address these residual emissions including carbon pricing, robust research and development, and incentives for farmers to sequester carbon in soils through smart agricultural practices.

Climate Crisis Action Plan moves America toward a cleaner, safer future

Fast-falling clean energy prices mean a safe climate future is not only better for the environment and health: It is the cheaper. Together these recommendations offer an opportunity to rebuild our economy, protect our air, land, and water and supply the jobs we need.