Growing ambition and alignment on climate

The House Energy and Commerce Committee yesterday released the draft CLEAN Future Act, the most comprehensive and ambitious federal climate change legislation proposed in years. It’s encouraging to see how strongly the draft bill corresponds to the ideas laid out in our recent report, Getting to Zero: A U.S. Climate Agenda

Getting to Zero was developed with input from roughly two dozen major companies as part of our Climate Innovation 2050 initiative, which examines U.S. decarbonization challenges and opportunities. It outlines federal, state and local policies needed over the coming decade to put the U.S. economy on a path to carbon neutrality by 2050.

The Energy and Commerce discussion draft builds on a memo released by the committee last month. The draft could serve as a foundation for a comprehensive climate package being developed by House Democrats.

The strong convergence between the CLEAN Future Act and Getting to Zero reflects growing alignment among experts, stakeholders – including businesses – and policymakers on the policies that will be needed to avert catastrophic climate change. Building on our own analysis of the key elements of decarbonization, Getting to Zero outlines a constellation of policies – including comprehensive, market based approaches and targeted, sector-specific policies that can accelerate economy-wide decarbonization.

That alignment includes policies such as:

  • Driving investments through the creation of a national green bank, leveraging government procurement for low-carbon goods, and the use of energy savings performance contracts, while prioritizing a just transition for marginalized communities.
  • Decarbonizing the power sector through a technology-inclusive clean energy standard and the modernization of power markets.
  • Reducing emissions from transportation through strong greenhouse gas performance standards and support for state and local efforts to build out zero-emission vehicle charging and refueling infrastructure.
  • Using efficiency targets and building codes to decarbonize buildings and supporting the deployment of combined heat and power (CHP) systems in the industrial sector.
  • Directing EPA to regulate methane emissions from the oil and gas sector, while increasing support for carbon capture, utilization and storage research, including direct air capture.

Of course, to be durable enough to see us through the transition, climate policy will need bipartisan support. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee recently advanced a number of bills that also align with a number of our key recommendations, including supporting clean energy RDD&D programs; boosting residential and industrial energy efficiency; modernizing the power grid; and leveraging the procurement of digital solutions to decarbonize federal buildings. House Republicans have similarly taken steps to articulate their own solutions, including carbon removal, innovation and conservation. These are encouraging signs, and, as we note in Getting to Zero, will be important elements of any successful climate plan.

The growing support for climate policy on Capitol Hill is a reflection of the momentum that’s building across the country. Cities and states are setting bold targets, investors are recognizing the risks that climate change poses to their portfolios and businesses have been setting increasingly ambitious goals while partnering with government to dramatically reduce the cost of low-carbon technologies. The transition is creating new jobs in clean energy and energy efficiency, and as public support for action on climate grows, climate denialism is collapsing under the weight of its own absurdity. Of course, we’re still far from implementing a comprehensive national climate strategy commensurate with the scale and urgency of the problem. But ambition is building in places where it’s sorely needed, and we’re going to have to figure out how to support it if we have any hope of accelerating the transition to carbon neutrality.

We can’t sugarcoat the fact that we’re far behind the curve on climate action. Urgent action is needed over this decade and every ounce of ambition we can squeeze through Congress matters.

C2ES will keep working with companies to identify and advance priority policies and corporate actions that can rapidly drive down emissions. But it’s encouraging to see congressional leaders in both parties beginning to reflect the growing ambition that Americans are increasingly demanding. Now we just need to see that leadership translate promising policy proposals into concrete action.