Climate Priority Pathways & Policies |
Strategies for mitigating climate change |
What are the best strategies for mitigating global warming? How is the United States going to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions? Carbon pricing? The Green New Deal? Here's a brief list of sustainability priorities that the United States should implement in order to avoid contributing to the most catastrophic consequences of anthropogenic climate change:
Priority Climate Actions for the US government
The United States federal government under Biden; all relevant Climate, Energy, and Environment executive administrative agencies must implement the following priorities. Also, ideally Congress and/ or state legislatures & governors must focus on priorities outlined in GCT's Climate Public Policies article.
- 1a) Investment for mature clean energy technologies (through direct government investment, tax incentives). Investment in readily available technologies like solar, wind, energy storage, electric vehicles (EVs) & EV charging infrastructure, sustainable mass transit, and smart grid. Focus on weatherizing buildings through the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP).
- Also, focus on retrofitting buildings with cutting-edge clean energy efficiency technologies. All new construction to be energy efficient (meet LEED, Energy Star standards). A priority is the electrification of buildings (through electric heat pumps vs. gas boilers, for example), and electrification of transportation (EVs). Another priority is a substantial investment in clean energy infrastructure.
- 1b) Investment in R&D of emerging new advanced clean energy and low carbon industrial technologies. Examples include small modular reactors & next-generation nuclear power, small hydropower, advanced biofuels, next-generation batteries for energy storage, carbon capture technologies, hydrogen technologies, and alternative low-carbon steel & cement production.
- 1c) Focus on environmental regulations of fossil fuel-intensive industries. Strict state & federal regulations are needed for greenhouse gases (GHGs - CO2, methane, etc...).
- Nationally, regulations are also needed for pollution (toxins such as NOx, SO2, particulates, mercury, etc...) from fossil fuel energy generation/ fossil fuel-intensive industries. Regulations are also needed for vehicle emissions, and order to raise fuel efficiency standards for vehicles, and to raise energy efficiency standards for appliances, lighting, etc...
- 1d) Focus on environmental justice (EJ) (for details, please see GCT's Climate Public Policies article). Investment in EJ communities, and local fossil fuel-based economies, particularly in coal communities, as the clean energy transition moves rapidly forward.
- 1e) Acting without a national clean energy mandate for the United States (as is the case presently), the U.S. federal government can still encourage states to adopt 100% clean energy standards (CES) and/ or 100% renewable energy standards (perhaps with tax incentives for states adopting clean energy targets, for example) - see GCT's renewable portfolio standards article.
- 1f) Although they are fairly unpopular in the U.S., the U.S. should at least consider renewable energy feed-in tariffs.
- The EPA under Biden needs to work on ensuring environmental regulations are put back in place; including air, water, and land pollution and GHGs regulatory rollbacks, now that the Trump administration is gone. "Most of these [environmental protection] rollbacks can be reversed by the Biden administration, but it will take some concerted effort. [Berkeley Law] has compiled nearly 200 rollbacks, listed here". FROM - law.berkeley.edu/research/clee/reversing-environmental-rollbacks
- A permanent moratorium on new coal plants legislated and mandated by the U.S. federal government, or at least by a majority of U.S. states. Pursue a just transition for coal country (e.g. retraining coal miners, other coal industry employees, in clean energy jobs. Just transition assistance with clean energy job placement; financial assistance to coal communities as local coal industry-dependent economies transition to clean energy economies). Existing coal mines are phased out completely by 2040 at the latest during the energy transition to clean energy in the U.S.
- Permanent ban on all drilling for oil & gas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Moratorium on all mining in ANWR & in all public lands and waters of the United States. Ban on oil & gas drilling on federal lands & waters in the U.S. (Biden has effectively done most of the current moratoriums on drilling/ mining on federal lands/ waters with executive actions - now these bans must be made permanent with legislation through Congress).
- Ban all Canadian tar sands oil imports and close tar sands oil pipelines - so that means ban all trains and pipelines that transport tar sands oil from Canada to the U.S., and stop the development of the Keystone XL pipeline - which Biden now has issued an executive order to do. The development of the Dakota Access pipeline should have effectively been stopped by the order of a federal judge in 2020. However, the case is still being bandied about the courts, pending 'environmental review', among other legal issues. Biden and Congress could shut the Dakota Access pipeline down, along with ensuring similar dirty tar sand oil pipelines are shut-down; especially the Line 3 pipeline.
Paris; UN Sustainability Goals; Climate & Land-use Targets
- Rejoin the international community on climate. The United States must make good on commitments made at the 2015 Paris Climate Accord before trying to put into U.S. law (through Congress) parts of new policies like sections of the Green New Deal (GND). This is true for even less dramatic policies than the GND, like the various federal carbon pricing proposals circulating Congress. Now that the Biden administration has rejoined Paris, the U.S. must try and achieve the more ambitious Carbon Neutrality Coalition (CNC) goal of carbon neutrality by 2050, and join the CNC. Even if any part of The Green New Deal does get passed by Congress and signed into law by Biden, the U.S. must still try to achieve goals set at the Paris Climate Accord. The U.S. must maintain its commitments to vital measures; such as ambitious GHG reduction goals.
- The U.S. will try to pull its own weight on climate, energy, the environment, and other sustainability goals.
- The sustainability and clean energy measures listed above in this article should be implemented by the U.S. government; even if the efforts fall short of the ambitious climate, energy, environment, and social justice targets outlined in The Green New Deal. It is recommended that the US federal government, or just individual states, consider passing carbon pricing legislation; similar to California’s emissions trading system (ETS); or an ETS similar to the one conducted by 10 Northeastern states (11 with Virginia joining in 2021) - the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).
- The United States must ensure (through the EPA); or ideally pass legislation through Congress - setting GHG reduction, decarbonization targets for the U.S. in order to meet all ambitious goals to meet the climate targets set by the United States at the Paris Climate Accord. Biden has pledged to decarbonize the energy generation sector (for electricity generation) by 2035, and to achieve net zero emissions (carbon neutrality targets) by 2050 - these represent significantly ambitious climate targets.
- All regulations for fossil fuel developments that were mandated under President Obama's Clean Power Plan (CPP), which mirror GHG reduction targets initially set at the 2015 Paris Climate Accord must be enforced at a minimum. Based on the new, more ambitious direction of the international community on climate change mitigation; even more ambitious targets than were originally set up by Obama's CPP should be new targets for the Biden administration. Greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. power plants will need to meet the most ambitious standards set by the Paris Climate Accord; and continue to evolve with new guidance from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - and which now are GHG reduction targets aligned with carbon neutrality by 2050.
- Expand, protect, restore, and maintain U.S. protected public wilderness, parks, nature reserves, natural monuments, and all U.S. public lands.
- Tax incentives/ direct government subsidies for sustainable agriculture (encourage farms to adopt practices such as cover crops, agroforestry, other common sustainable agriculture practices.
There were a few significant events which showed strong signs of global progress, with the United States as an occasional global leader on climate action; in terms of addressing anthropogenic climate change in 2014-2015, leading to the Paris Climate Accord:
These events represented true progress. We must get back to this momentum.
The new climate envoy and related staff, John Kerry and his staff, for the new executive climate department of the U.S. government; and the new Biden Administration picks for EPA, Energy, Interior, and other climate related cabinet positions - should get the U.S. back on track as far as ambitious climate policies based on the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change guidance. The COP26 in Glasgow should provide a beacon of hope for the global clean energy transition.
On day one of his presidency, Biden rejoined the Paris climate accord, and canceled further U.S. development of the Keystone pipeline, as well as discontinuing any further U.S. investment in the Keystone pipeline (stopping any use of the pipeline for Canadian tar sands oil). Now Biden and Congress just need to tackle the above priorities (including stopping at least 2 more major Canadian tar sands oil pipelines). Relevant parts of the Biden administration (EPA, the new Climate executive department, Energy, Interior) need to start issuing incremental policies (such as those listed above) to address sustainable climate solutions to meet new IPCC guidance. Public policies that are recommended for the United States to pursue as far as climate, energy, and the environment, please see: GCT's CLIMATE PUBLIC POLICIES article.
The United States federal government (through Congress), or individual states (through state legislatures), should at least consider passing legislation from the various carbon pricing proposals circulating Congress. Please see: GCT's EU and US climate progress, carbon pricing, and carbon tax articles; for more insight on the range of carbon pricing legislation measures proposed and in effect globally.
Big Oil (and gas) and Big Coal, in the United States as in much of the rest of the world, finance the campaigns of many politicians and have successfully been able to slow down progress on some major climate goals. How much of the Clean Power Plan had the Trump administration, Congressional Republicans, and the EPA under Trump been able to stop? The EPA under the Trump administration had been able to stop or reverse the ambitious goals of the CPP and Paris Climate Accord in some, Republican-controlled, states.
However, many states and cities in the United States have stayed on track to meet the initial requirements of the Clean Power Plan and the Paris Climate Accord; as individual states (like California, many states in the Northeast, several other states) have remained committed to the ambitious climate goals of the CPP and Paris Climate Accord; and remain committed to achieving the latest climate targets set by the IPCC. Please see: greencitytimes.blogspot.com/elements-of-clean-power-plan-still-move and: greencitytimes.blogspot.com/was-clean-power-plan-just-wiped-out.
Some U.S. states have even more ambitious strategies to reduce GHGs and fight climate change than put forth in the CPP, or at Paris in 2015; closer to the carbon neutrality targets set by the latest IPCC guidance.
Examples of states with ambitious climate mitigation plans include: states like California, Hawaii, Washington, New Mexico, as well as several states in the Northeast U.S., a few other states (all are states which have passed bills through their states' legislatures that mandate 100% renewable energy within the next 3 decades for their entire state; or at least 100% clean energy ). New York City is even planning a congestion levy for cars in the city center of NYC); and is investing substantial support for electric vehicles - like the development of extensive EV charging stations, as well as other EV infrastructure.
Carbon pricing, fiscal incentives for clean energy technologies, and incentives for clean energy job growth are among public policies that would benefit the environmental health of the planet by increasing investment in clean and renewable energy; helping in the fight against climate change by reducing GHGs from energy production.
Policies supporting clean energy job growth would also help the economy. Here is an article by Green City Times - a guide to needed public policies for environmental (as well as economic) sustainability, including our complete take on the Green New Deal - greencitytimes.com/stabilize-greenhouse-gas-emissions-2
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