(Bloomberg) -- House Democrats unveiled a plan to combat and eventually reverse climate change that won plaudits from mainstream environmentalists but some disappointment from progressives who have tried to push the party to the left on the issue.
The more than 500-page report sets a target for the U.S. cutting planet-warming emissions by 88% by 2050 by requiring utilities to use carbon-free power sources, requiring 100% clean vehicles by 2035 and curbing oil development on public lands, among other goals.
After 2050, the plan sets a goal of taking more carbon out of the atmosphere than is emitted to it through a range of “carbon capture” technology, tree planting and other methods.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, released the plan at an outdoor event on the steps of the Capitol and called climate change “the existential crisis of our time.”
She highlighted the focus on creating jobs and higher labor standards in the process of massively shifting the U.S. economy by expanding industries such as solar and wind energy, and clean-vehicle production.
Democrats cast their proposal for confronting the climate crisis as a matter of racial and environmental justice, as Black Lives Matter protests and the killing of George Floyd bring nationwide attention to the disparate treatment of poor and minority communities who often live near polluting factories, power plants and highways -- and therefore bear the brunt of conventional air pollution.
“To the young Black mother who is afraid to allow her children to play outside because their asthma is getting worse, we’re going to start in your neighborhood,” said Representative Kathy Castor, a Florida Democrat and the climate committee chairwoman.
Many conservation groups applauded the measure. League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski, praised its focus on environmental justice. “National climate policy must confront the forces that expose Black, indigenous, and people of color to higher levels of toxic pollution,” Karpinski said in an email.
Former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy said the plan “bristles with bold solutions to the greatest environmental threat of our time.”
“It would speed us away from fossil fuels and invest in a better future -- one that will put more people to work in clean energy, reduce pollution in communities where it is the highest, and make our country more resilient to the challenges ahead,” said McCarthy, now the president of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Gregory Wetstone, president of the American Council on Renewable Energy, applauded Democrats’ decision to pair a national clean energy mandate with tax incentives he said would “attract capital, lower cost and accelerate renewable deployment.” That strategy “is a proven formula for decarbonizing the grid,” Wetstone said by email.
The measure nevertheless disappointed some more progressive environmental activists, who said Democrats were bypassing an opportunity to lock in binding carbon-reduction targets that would help keep warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
“The report has hundreds of positive suggestions, but it’s far too vague on some of the most urgent climate policy issues,” and it lacks “many of the bold and immediate actions needed to avert a climate catastrophe,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity.
The climate crisis committee’s minority Republican members issued a joint statement expressing disappointment they were excluded from the bill’s drafting.
“The real obstacle to committees being able to effectively conduct deliberate process in a transparent manner is Speaker Pelosi,” the Republican members stated. “We have seen the results with other committees -- debate has been muted and thoughtful deliberations have been absent.”
Still, the GOP committee members said they hope for bipartisan efforts on the plan and the issue. They advocated for policies to cut energy costs and emissions, saying that economic growth doesn’t have to be sacrificed for improving the environment, pointing to an increase in production of lower-carbon shale gas on American land as a positive step.
They pointed to foreign countries like China as the real culprits U.S. policy should focus on.
“If the United States aims to reduce global emissions and lead the global energy future, then poorly designed domestic climate policies that increase costs or add burdensome regulations must be avoided,” the Republican members said in their statement.
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