Written by: Natalia Brown

On June 30th, the US House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis released Solving the Climate Crisis: The Congressional Action Plan for a Clean Energy Economy and a Healthy, Resilient, and Just America. The report outlines policy recommendations through which the House and Senate may effectively address the diverse risks posed by the climate crisis in a way that advances justice and equity, benefits workers and the national economy, all while protecting public health.

Investment and Economic Growth

A great deal of the plan addresses the need for investment in clean energy technology and infrastructure in order to propel our economy to thrive at net-zero emissions no later than 2050. Advancement of wind and solar energy generation, among other renewables; coupled with more efficient transmission systems would support a transition to clean energy for households and businesses across the US. The plan also calls for congressional action to support the launch of new economic sectors that would catalyze progress on different aspects of our climate goals. Expanding research on low-carbon building materials, for example, would address the easily overlooked waste and carbon footprint of the construction industry.

Did you know that cement, a key ingredient in concrete, is responsible for approximately 8% of global carbon emissions? If cement were its own country, that would rank it in the top 5 highest contributors of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.

Federal spending is critically important to support growth in the industries that will be supplying the shifting demands of our nation. By investing in the manufacturing of clean energy, clean vehicle manufacturing, circular supply chains, and other zero-emission technologies; the federal government can incentivize growth of manufacturing and industry in a way that aligns with the critical demands of the climate crisis.

The plan also calls for investment to elevate the electrification and transportation sectors. Energy storage technology, for example, holds great potential to help the nation scale the clean energy transition across a diverse range of economic activities.

With investment and economic growth, comes the tremendous opportunity for new jobs! The recommendations laid out in this plan set the stage for the creation of high-quality, good-paying jobs that build local workforce capabilities, acknowledge and uplift vibrant regional economies, and strengthen workers’ rights to organize.

New Standards for Innovation

In addition to funneling federal dollars into the economic sectors that will propel the nation forward in this transition, Congress can encourage innovation that aligns with climate action goals by setting new standards.

One well-known recent example is the Obama-era fuel economy standards, which were established to push for production of vehicles that travel further on the same amount of fuel. This is also known as fuel efficiency, and it’s an excellent transitional mechanism for reducing the need for gasoline and decreasing air pollution associated with fuel combustion and transportation in general.

The plan sets forth recommendations for new standards for clean energy generation, energy efficiency, vehicle emissions, fuel carbon, infrastructure resilience, industry performance, labor and economic opportunities, and the pollution and leakage coming from the declining fossil fuel industry.

Justice and Equity

In setting forth the goal for our nation to achieve net-zero emissions economy-wide, one of the most important aspects of measuring progress and maintaining accountability will be acute assessment of how benefits are being distributed, within and beyond historically marginalized and otherwise more vulnerable communities.

Several of the 12 pillars integrate the principles of environmental justice, in such a way that the health and knowledge of these communities may effectively be the center of federal climate and environmental policy.

Looking back, the urgency for environmental justice is addressed through clean-up initiatives for remediation in communities that have been disproportionately exposed to and robbed of access to sustainable systems (clean air and drinking water; fresh and healthy food; safe public transportation). Moving forward, the recommendations call for prioritization of EJ communities for new federal spending, meaningful engagement with these individuals, and support of academic and federal research on how the impacts of federal policies are manifesting in their communities.

Community Resilience

Another critical theme of the recommendations is the need for adaptation in currently and foreseeably vulnerable communities. Climate scientists have been warning of the human health and public safety risks associated with the increasing global mean surface temperatures and unpredictability of extreme weather events for over four decades. As such, there is no doubt that mitigation and innovation must be coupled with emergency preparedness and resilience priorities.

Risk management needs range vastly from the longevity of our industrial and manufacturing activities to the characteristics of our homes and local infrastructure to the security of agricultural systems fronted with climate-related risks. Simply stated, it’s important that we focus on the long-term and maximize the lifetime of the methods and technologies pushed forward.

One of the many initiatives outlined in this report is the establishment of a National Climate Adaptation Program. This is intended to support state, local, tribal, and territorial governments in making sure their homes, businesses, and critical infrastructure can withstand the impacts of climate change.

Additionally, there is an entire pillar dedicated to making the agricultural industry a tool for climate action. Agriculture is arguably one of the farthest-reaching and most profoundly threatened systems that we rely on, in the context of climate change. Recommendations in the report include the integration of adaptation and mitigation practices for new and otherwise disadvantaged farmers, incentives for them to implement efficiency and renewable energy technology on their land, and expanded resources for the protection and maintenance of fertile farmland.

 

There are so many important steps that have been and will continue to be taken in order to advance a climate action agenda on the national level. I encourage you to learn more about climate action proposals at the local and national level, such as this comprehensive report.

Is there a climate action solution that stood out to you in particular? That you’d like to read more about from our team or an expert guest? Shoot me an email: natalia@debrisfreeoceans.org and I’ll look into making that happen in this space!