WASHINGTON (AP) — House Democrats on Tuesday unveiled a plan to address climate change that would set a goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, while pushing renewable energy such as wind and solar power and addressing environmental injustice that harms low-income and minority communities.
The election-year plan backed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other leaders is less ambitious than a sweeping Green New Deal that a group of progressive Democrats outlined last year to combat climate change and create thousands of jobs in renewable energy.
The Green New Deal, championed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., calls for dramatic steps to virtually eliminate U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 with a goal of meeting “100% of the power demand in the United States through clean, renewable and zero-emission energy sources,” including nuclear power.
The new plan, put forth Tuesday in a 538-page report, offers similar goals but at a slower pace. It sets a range of targets, including a 45% reduction by 2030 of greenhouse gas emissions, which cause global warming.
The plan also would require that by 2035 new cars emit no greenhouse gases, while heavy-duty trucks would eliminate those emissions by 2040. The plan would eliminate overall emissions from the power sector by 2040 and all but eliminate greenhouse emissions from all economic sectors by 2050.
Supporters say the plan, presented by Democrats on the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, by 2050 would save more than 60,000 American lives every year thanks to reduced air pollution, as well as nearly $8 trillion thanks to health and climate benefits.
“Democrats know the climate crisis is the essential crisis of our time, threatening public health, jobs and the economy, national security and values,” Pelosi said Tuesday at a Capitol news conference.
“We are here today to provide hope and vision,” said Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla., chairwoman of the climate panel. She called the Democratic plan a “transformative road map for solving the climate crisis,” and pledged that it would address environmental justice and vulnerable communities that are suffering from the effects of air and water pollution and industrial waste.
“The health of our families and the air we breathe are at the heart of our plan,” Castor said, adding that it would create good-paying jobs in solar and wind energy, manufacturing electric vehicles and ensuring that communities are more resilient to flooding, extreme heat, intense hurricanes and wildfires.
The plan combines proposals from more than 100 lawmakers, including calls to update building codes to increase energy efficiency in commercial buildings and housing; improve dams and other infrastructure to prevent catastrophic flooding; and plug leaks to cut air pollution from oil and gas drilling.
While likely to win approval in the Democratic-controlled House, the plan faces insurmountable opposition in the Republican-controlled Senate. Democrats are hoping to make inaction on climate change by congressional Republicans and the Trump administration a key campaign issue in November’s election.
Republicans immediately slammed the plan as a job-killer that would benefit China more than the United States. The Democratic plan “punishes the American economy” and “gives a free pass to China” to pollute, said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.
White House spokesman Judd Deere said President Donald Trump has expanded responsible, clean-energy technologies “while the Democrats continue to push radical Green New Deal-like polices that would cripple America’s economy and crush the poorest communities across the globe.”
The Democratic plan is similar to one proposed by former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president. Biden’s plan also sets a goal for net-zero greenhouse emissions by 2050 and pledges an enforcement mechanism that includes milestone targets no later than 2025.
A spokesman said Biden applauded Pelosi and House Democrats for continuing to make climate change a top priority. As president, Biden “will work with Congress to implement a bold agenda that addresses the climate emergency, achieves environmental justice and creates good-paying jobs,″ spokesman Matt Hill said.
The new plan received immediate support from more than 90 outside organizations, including major environmental groups and leaders in environmental justice, agriculture, public health and transportation.
But the Sunrise Movement, a progressive group that helped develop the Green New Deal, said the plan did not go far enough, fast enough to halt climate change.
“This plan is more ambitious than anything we have seen from Democratic leadership so far, but it still needs to go further to match the full scale of the crisis,” said Lauren Maunus, the group’s legislative manager.
“There’s nothing to lose by going bigger,” Maunus said. ”Taking action at the scale of the crisis will help lift our economy out of recession and put millions of people back to work building a more just and resilient society.”
In a sign of the changed political environment, the Democratic plan heavily emphasizes environmental justice and notes that the report’s release comes as the nation is reeling from a cascade of crises, including the COVID-19 pandemic. which has killed more than 120,000 Americans; stay-at-home orders and business closures that have put 40 million Americans out of work; and nationwide protests in response to the police killing of an unarmed Black man, George Floyd.
Throughout these crises, Trump has “failed to lead the country in a unified and compassionate response, instead choosing to fan the flames of discord and distrust,” the report said.
Even with all of these problems, the climate crisis stands out, Democrats said. “We cannot wait” to solve the problem, the report said, noting that atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations in May 2020 exceeded the highest monthly average ever recorded. Last month tied for the highest global May temperature in 141 years of record-keeping.
While the costs of inaction continue to rise, “the solutions to climate change — including building and rebuilding America’s energy, transportation, and manufacturing infrastructure to be cleaner and more resilient to climate impacts — offer an opportunity to propel the economy forward,” the report said.