The Environmental Law Institute (ELI) at Columbia University has released an impressive book that summarizes more than 1,000 recommendations on the legal pathways to decarbonization of the U.S. economy. The book is a condenses version of a much larger volume ELI plans to put out in March. It contains 35 chapters on topics ranging from carbon pricing to the decarbonization of buildings, transportation, the electric grid and several other sectors, listing actions by federal, state and local governments as well as the private sector. The summary book is available here for $12.95.
Now that the 116th Congress is underway, it appears that climate change will get more attention than it has in recent years. In addition to the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Frank Pallone, is adding climate change to the focus of one of his subcommittees. Pallone also promised to make climate change the topic of the committee’s first hearing. The difference between the two committees is this: The Committee on the Climate Crisis is not a “standing” committee. It does not have the power to write legislation or to subpoena witnesses. Pallone’s group is a standing committee that has those powers. PCAP has sent a long list of suggestions to both chairpersons about what their committees might do to lay the groundwork for concrete climate action if there is a more hospitable Senate and White House after the 2020 election.
Two reports issued last fall shook up the assumption that holding global warming to no more than 2oC above pre-industrial levels would be sufficient to avert catastrophic climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported that the much safer goal is 1.5oC. Both goals were mentioned in the Paris climate accord, but the new IPCC report shows that 20C of warming would result in significantly more adverse impacts. The IPCC also shook up the global timetable for mitigating climate change, saying the world is on track to exhaust its “carbon budget” in 12 years or so. This means the global carbon emissions must peak well before 2030, but that’s not the path we’re on. Global emissions are climbing. So are U.S. emissions, which have been declining in recent years but increased in 2018. U.S. will rise even higher as a result of President Trump’s policies, including his reversal of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and aggressive increases in vehicle efficiency. A month later, the U.S. Global Change Research Program, consisting of climate scientists from 13 federal agencies, issued
The Green New Deal is a proposal to make a rapid and comprehensive transition to a decarbonized economy, principally by shifting to 100% renewable power generation. Green groups have promoted the idea for some time, but one version is contained in a proposal by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Democrat Socialist from New York who was elected to Congress last November. Ocasio-Cortez proposed that the House of Representatives form a special committee to create a plan on how to implement the Green New Deal with elements pertaining to economic justice as well as clean energy. Instead, Speaker Nancy Pelosi created a House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis whose chair, Rep. Kathy Castor, D-FL, is expected to take up some elements of the idea.