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Zero Net Fifty

Jul 2020

What are they thinking? How to know what the parties want from climate policy

July 12, 2020

Even if a new federal bill has no chance of becoming law, it’s still a highly instructive mechanism in climate politics.

In this episode, we look at the progress of new climate policies, first at the state level and then at the federal level.

In Vermont, a new policy for action on global warming is making its way through the Vermont legislature with potential rules that would hold the state accountable if it fails to meet new aggressive emissions reductions goals in the near term.

At the federal level, we saw the release from the U.S. House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis of its proposed net zero emissions by 2050 pathway in a plan called, “Congressional Action Plan for a Clean Energy Economy and a Healthy, Resilient and Just America.” While the release of that plan presents a good opportunity to see what Democrats are thinking in terms of policies to address climate change, the committee, ultimately, is not a policy-making body. It also offers insight into what Republicans are thinking on climate change, as we saw that the committee’s Republican response was not as negative as might have been expected in the past. Does it point to an interest on the part of Republicans to open dialogue that could result in forward progress on climate policies?

Further action from the side of the Democrats at the federal level came from an infrastructure bill that relies heavily on green provisions, along with another bill on energy efficiency. Like all legislation coming out of the U.S. House, these new bills do not have any hope of moving forward, but they are representative of how Democrats see the U.S. plan to address climate change.

Specific to that thinking is a central role for environmental justice. The need to grow communities that are resilient, not just in terms of their ability to resist climate change, but also in how their members can thrive, is present and will remain a constant factor in new climate policies.

The big picture priorities, specific to how the U.S. thinks about climate change and how it will address it, are changing. Energy and climate are front and center in the national conversation in ways that they never have been before. How that conversation develops and escalates will be clear in the coming months, as the country gears up for primaries in August, and ultimately, the very critical presidential election in November.