The Climate Mission agenda will target economy wide net-zero carbon emissions “as fast as possible, and by no later than 2045.” (The Sunrise Movement activists behind the GND feel strongly that the US should target net-zero by 2030.)
That’s the overall goal. But the focus of the agenda will be a ten-year mobilization, per the GND. That will involve an array of policies targeted at various sectors, which the campaign will release over the coming months.
The first piece, out last Friday, is the “100 percent Clean Energy for America Plan.” It lays out three high-level targets for 2030:
100 percent carbon-neutral electricity;
100 percent zero-emissions in new light- and medium-duty vehicles and all buses;
100 percent zero-carbon pollution in all new commercial and residential buildings.
Collectively, electricity, transportation, and buildings are responsible for 70 percent of US carbon emissions, so in many ways this is the central and most significant plant of the agenda. (The campaign promises policy on existing vehicles and existing buildings — in many ways trickier problems — in subsequent proposals.)
Let’s look at a few quick highlights from each area.
Getting the carbon out of electricity
Here, Inslee’s policy is modeled after the 100-percent-clean bill his own state of Washington just passed. It sets a clean energy standard (CES) whereby all utilities must deliver carbon-neutral power by 2030 and 100 percent “clean, renewable and zero-emission” electricity by 2035.
Two notes. First, “carbon neutral” is a specific term of art here. It means that if utilities fall short of 100 percent clean electricity in 2030, they can make up the difference by investing in other carbon-reducing projects, like, say, energy efficiency retrofits for customers. It’s a clever way to induce non-federal investment in those projects.
Second, the language here — “clean, renewable and zero-emission” — pointedly leaves room for hydro, nuclear, and fossil fuels or biomass with carbon capture, a small-c catholic approach to “clean energy” that I think makes sense.
clean and renewable energy standards in the us
Renewable and clean energy standards are catching on at the state level. BTI
Getting to zero-carbon electricity also involves a host of complementary policies:
offering refundable tax credits for clean-energy projects, tied to job-quality standards, such that developers can only get the full credit if they make good-faith efforts to pay union wages, hire union labor, seek out woman- and minority-owned contractors, etc.; this both spurs clean energy development and ensures that it creates high-quality jobs;
investing in frontline communities (like communities where coal plants are shut down) for worker and community transition assistance and community-based projects;
working with utilities to encourage on-bill financing of efficiency and distributed energy projects;
accelerating the evolution toward performance-based utility regulation (more on PBR in this post);
increasing renewable energy development on federal lands and waters;
expanding existing federal energy financing programs like the Department of Energy Loan Guarantee Program;
expanding the long-distance transmission system to better distribute renewable energy (here, in particular, Inslee’s team shows its familiarity with existing regulatory structures and how they can be tweaked to perform better; there’s a reference to “Dynamic Line Ratings,” a phrase you probably won’t hear again in the primary).
This is good stuff, centered on what ought to be the first item on any serious national climate agenda: a CES that gets to zero-carbon electricity as fast as possible. Clean power will make everything else easier. It’s technologically feasible and there are state models for how to do it, including Washington.