“This is not an emergency response.”
“The Select Committee on the Climate Crisis had the opportunity to put forth a comprehensive plan to protect Americans from climate devastation, but the solutions proposed to fail to meet the challenge of the existential planetary crisis we face.”
— Laura Berry, TCM
That is how Laura Berry, director of research and policy at the Climate Mobilization (TCM), responded to reporting on a congressional “action plan” for the planetary emergency from the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, which the panel and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) unveiled Tuesday.
The climate roadmap features hundreds of policy proposals under 12 key pillars. Specifically, the 538-page plan calls for selling only zero-emissions vehicles by 2035, net-zero greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector by 2040, and net-zero U.S. emissions economy-wide by no later than 2050.
As part of the efforts to meet those goals, the committee calls on Congress to “ensure new jobs in the clean energy economy are high-quality, good-paying jobs by strengthening workers’ rights to organize a union and ensuring federal spending only supports projects that meet high-road labor standards.”
The plan, as the Washington Post reported, “also backs placing a price on carbon emissions, imposing tougher methane limits, and boosting energy efficiency in buildings. Solar and wind tax credits would be extended through 2025, and the tax credit for electric vehicles would be expanded.”
Despite longstanding cost and safety concerns related to nuclear power, Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), the committee’s chair, told the Post that “where we landed is: if we’re going to get to our net-zero goal as soon as possible, then nuclear needs to remain part of the equation.”
The roadmap acknowledges the disproportionate impact of the climate crisis on people of color and “environmental justice communities.” Castor told the New York Times that “there is an awakening across the country to systemic racism, and this is a report that at its center, at its core, focuses on those communities.”
“We have no time left to prop up false solutions that cannot meet the demands of the current crisis. The Democrats must do better—much better.”
—Mitch Jones, FWA
Reactions to the plan ranged from enthusiasm and cautious optimism to sharp criticism that the roadmap was too little, too late. As writer Neal Romanek put it in a Monday night tweet: “Net zero by 2050 means ‘we’ll let our kids figure it out’. It’s genocidal negligence.”
Berry of TCM also blasted the plan’s emissions goals, citing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report on 1.5ºC, which warned in October 2018 of the need for “rapid, far-reaching, and unprecedented” changes to life as we know it.
“The Select Committee on the Climate Crisis had the opportunity to put forth a comprehensive plan to protect Americans from climate devastation, but the solutions proposed to fail to meet the challenge of the existential planetary crisis we face,” Berry said. “Collectively, the proposals in the plan would only cut greenhouse gas emissions by 37% by 2030, and 88% by 2050, and are wholly inadequate to prevent the risk of catastrophic climate disruption.”
Food & Water Action (FWA) policy director Mitch Jones agreed in a statement Tuesday, warning that “the paltry ‘net-zero’ goals put forth by the committee would allow for continued use of dirty fossil fuels, and would rely on achieving emissions reductions from unproven, industry-backed ‘carbon capture’ technologies and market-based accounting tricks.”
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“This climate proposal inexplicably and inexcusably fails to call for a halt to the extraction of fossil fuels. It is simply not an adequate attempt to deal with the crisis we actually face,” Jones said. “We must take the necessary first steps: a ban on fracking, a ban on exports and imports of fossil fuels, and an immediate halt to new fossil fuel infrastructure buildout. Anything that does not seek to immediately curtail and then eliminate the production of fossil fuels is weak sauce.”
Jones detailed some specific concerns with elements of the roadmap as well as activists’ demands:
It is alarming to see carbon taxes included as part of the Democrats’ proposed solution. This is no time or place for regressive policies that have already proven to be colossal failures. Fossil fuel corporations embrace these phony pricing schemes because they know that these policies only entrench their existence.
The plan also endorses the use of biogas and factory farm manure digesters, which prop up unsustainable and dangerous agricultural practices that are contributing to the climate crisis. A bold, sensible climate plan would seek to end our use of fossil fuels and place a moratorium on polluting factory farms; this plan would do the opposite.
A bold climate plan must call for a ban on fracking and all new fossil fuel infrastructure, and a swift and just transition to 100% clean, renewable energy across all sectors of the economy. We have no time left to prop up false solutions that cannot meet the demands of the current crisis. The Democrats must do better—much better.
When Pelosi announced the House panel in late 2018, critics said Democratic leaders weren’t being bold enough and expressed concern that forthcoming proposals would follow that same cautious path.
TCM deputy director Ezra Silk said Tuesday that “the select committee’s plan for a leisurely, three-decade transition to a cleaner economy underscores the establishment’s continuing refusal to address this existential crisis with the scale, speed, and intensity required to ensure a future for our next generation.”
Silk expressed hope that former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic Party’s presumed presidential nominee, “recognizes the urgency facing our world and commits to declaring a climate emergency within the first 100 days of his administration, includes a 2030 deadline for zero emissions, and releases a federal mobilization plan necessary to protect our nation.”
House Democrats’ climate action roadmap comes amid intraparty conflict over a set of policy recommendations released in early June by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) Council on the Environment and Climate Crisis, which is chaired by Michelle Deatrick, a former surrogate for the now-suspended presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
As Common Dreams reported last week, while green groups continued to throw their support behind that committee’s proposals, DNC Chair Tom Perez announced a drafting committee for the party’s 2020 platform that, in the words of journalist Emily Atkin, “snubs progressive climate activists again.”
Given the environmental and climate record of the Republican-majority Senate and President Donald Trump, the House plan is widely regarded as a signal of the policies that Democratic leaders will pursue if they can regain control of the upper chamber and the White House in November.