WASHINGTON — 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 of California 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 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 percent 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.
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.
It includes six recommendations from bills sponsored by U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat from Maine’s 1st District, that aim to reduce food waste, make it easier for schools to buy locally sourced food, study the impact of ocean acidification and help farmers reduce emissions.
While the package is 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. 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 policies 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.
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 or fast enough to halt climate change.
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.
Story by Matthew Daly.