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Democrats Plan ‘Sweeping Legislation’ to Hit Net-Zero Emissions by 2050

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Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives are developing what The Hill calls “sweeping climate legislation” to bring the country to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, while Utility Dive points to renewable energy advocates charting the “most effective” path to hit that target.

A white paper for the Democrats’ CLEAN Future Act, released last week, “includes a requirement that utilities work toward 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050, a mandate that includes a clean energy credit trading system,” The Hill reports. “The transportation sector would also have to be emissions-free by that deadline, as the Environmental Protection Agency ratchets up increasingly tight vehicle standards. And buildings and industry would also have to clean up their act, using materials from more environmentally friendly sources while meeting tighter building codes.”

The plan has states playing an “active role” in ensuring their economies align with the national standard, the publication adds. “Funding it all would be a first-of-its-kind National Climate Bank, mobilizing private and public funding to boost technological innovation as well as projects to bolster against the effects of climate change.”

“We’re treating this climate crisis like the emergency that it is,” said House Energy and Commerce Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ). “I don’t want you to see this as a messaging bill. We’re going to try to move this bill or pieces of this bill when we can.”

The Hill says legislation would run into resistance in a U.S. Senate led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and from the Trump White House. But while Democrats are hoping for bipartisan support, they aren’t counting on it.

“Most of them are climate deniers,” Pallone said. “The president, the leadership won’t admit there’s a human element to the climate disaster that we face, so that’s a huge problem in trying to get them to participate.”

But Republican leaders on House Energy and Commerce “expressed an interest in working with Democrats on some portions of the bill, hoping that some aspects of the legislation will align with a package of a dozen pieces of legislation that tackle climate change through technological innovation, greater reliance on natural gas and nuclear, and developing better battery storage,” The Hill writes.

“My view is always if we can get that done, let’s get that done,” said Ranking Member Greg Walden (R-OR). “And then we can argue about other stuff where we may come to terms, and there will be things where we’re just polar opposites, right? But we ought to grab the things that are already bipartisan, and move forward on those.”

The Hill identifies formation of a carbon market as one of those sticking points, with Democrats insisting they aren’t pricing carbon, but Republicans comparing their approach to a carbon cap-and-trade model they oppose. “If you’ve got to have a credit and you’ve got to have auctions, then that feels a lot like cap-and-trade,” Walden said.

In response to the CLEAN Act framework, the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) said the U.S. will need to add 30 gigawatts of renewable power capacity per year, 50% more than the current growth rate for renewables, to decarbonize the grid by 2050, Utility Dive writes.

“ACORE’s report included a federal standard among its provisions, but also called for a streamlining of the federal permitting process for large renewable energy projects and a production or investment tax credit similar to those implemented for wind and solar, but made available for all clean energy technologies,” the industry newsletter adds. “A Senate bill introduced by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) last year proposed such a credit, and ACORE cited that legislation as a potential model to follow in future bills.”

ACORE also addressed transmission siting and permitting, an area where Utility Dive says the Democrats’ framework is still a work in progress.

“Building out regional and inter-regional transmission can complement other climate policies by enabling greater, and more cost-effective, renewable energy penetration,” the organization said. It also urged the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to encourage private investment by pivoting “from a risks and challenges framework, which encourages costly and risky projects, to a benefits framework, which would incentivize projects in line with their consumer value.”

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