In June 2020, the U.S. House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis released detailed and ambitious climate policy recommendations in Solving the Climate Crisis: The Congressional Action Plan for a Clean Energy Economy and a Healthy, Resilient, and Just America. Energy Innovation modeled a subset of the recommendations in the Energy Policy Simulator, finding the Climate Crisis Action Plan will lay the groundwork for net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 while generating nearly $8 trillion in monetized health and climate benefits.
America’s farmers and ranchers can be active partners in solving the climate crisis by sequestering carbon in their soils and adopting climate stewardship practices. Many are already providing valuable climate and ecosystems benefits, but they need the federal government’s support to do it at scale. Congress must invest generously in financial and technical assistance, education, and research to encourage agricultural producers to implement climate-smart agriculture practices.
Because states and local governments largely have authority over the design and construction of buildings, the federal government can best facilitate building decarbonization by providing financial incentives and technical support, while setting goals and requirements for the federal building stock. These policies will boost local economic development, create high-quality, good-paying jobs, and improve quality of life, especially for disproportionately exposed, frontline, and vulnerable communities.
The United States must invest in a strong climate science enterprise and expand Earth monitoring programs that form the basis for projections of climate-related risk. The long-term strength of climate science will also depend on investing in a talented and diverse STEM workforce and safeguarding scientific integrity and science-informed federal policy.
Congress should confront the nation’s rising disaster risks with a unified, all-of-government approach that helps communities make smarter land use decisions; rewards use of risk-based building codes and standards for land use and development; and invests in resilience before disasters strike. Congress also must prioritize assistance to frontline communities and accelerate the pace of recovery so that communities rebuild stronger.
Congressional action remains imperative to foster innovation and drive clean energy deployment and infrastructure investment, including to modernize and expand the electric grid; correct failures in wholesale power markets; and ensure that low-income communities, communities of color, and deindustrialized communities reap the benefits of a cleaner, more resilient power sector.
Equitable and just climate policy must do more than cut carbon pollution—it must tackle the legacy of environmental racism and build a clean energy economy that achieves tangible improvements in people’s lives. Federal policymakers must develop and implement climate solutions in a way that meaningfully involves and values the experience and ideas of environmental justice (EJ) communities.
For the United States to meet its goals for decarbonization and climate resilience, private investment must shift away from activities that exacerbate the climate crisis and focus on the deployment of clean technologies and resilient infrastructure. Congress also must ensure the financial system is resilient to the economic transition and climate impacts to come.
The United States must invest in making communities more flood resilient by restoring natural floodplains and reducing the risks of loss of life and property in floods. The federal government must develop accurate and precise information on current and future flood risk and use risk-based flood standards to help communities decide how and where to grow and rebuild after disasters.
Bolstering our nation’s health systems for the climate crisis will require national planning and global leadership, along with investments in community preparedness and the resilience of hospitals and health infrastructure. The federal government must expand resources for public health departments, health facilities, and households to increase physical, social, and mental health resilience.
The United States must carry out comprehensive policies and make substantial investments to achieve net-zero emissions in the industrial sector and rebuild U.S. industry and manufacturing for global climate leadership. These measures should boost American innovation, reward domestic manufacturing of American ideas, create high-quality domestic jobs, and ensure clean, safe, fair, and equitable industrial development for workers and communities.
The United States has a world-class innovation system that can address the challenges of deep decarbonization and climate resilience while advancing U.S. competitiveness and fueling long-term economic growth. To unleash this potential, Congress must enact coordinated policies that support and fund innovation at all stages, leverage private sector investment as much as possible, and ensure that innovative technologies are developed and deployed in a just and equitable way.
U.S. territories are on the front lines of the impacts of climate change and require unique scientific and technical assistance and robust financial support to understand climate-related threats, develop renewable energy systems, and build resilience. Congress must embed insular areas throughout an equitable and just national climate policy.
Solving the climate crisis must be a priority for the United States in our multilateral, bilateral, international development, and humanitarian efforts. By supporting climate-smart development and partnering with countries on climate solutions, the United States can help countries address their own circumstances and foster partnerships that have economic, environmental, and security benefits for all.
For the transition to a resilient, clean energy economy to be successful, we must build it on a foundation that provides workers with a guarantee that they will earn family-sustaining wages in safe working conditions. One of the best ways to ensure that a resilient, clean energy economy is a fair economy is to strengthen workers’ right to organize a union and negotiate higher wages and better benefits.
The United States must protect its interests and lead the world in confronting the national security threats of the climate crisis by advancing climate resilience and preparedness for a strong national defense and preparing for the security impacts of climate change. This requires increased investment in military installations and readiness that anticipates these changing threats and strengthening of coordination across our military, intelligence, diplomatic, and development capabilities.
To achieve an economywide goal of net-zero emissions by midcentury and improve community and ecosystem resilience, Congress will need to expand protections for America’s lands, waters, ocean, and wildlife. Strong conservation policies and initiatives and generous investments in the protection and restoration of America’s landscapes and ecosystems must be a cornerstone of any comprehensive climate strategy.
To maximize the climate benefits of blue carbon ecosystems and help them adapt to a warming climate, the United States must expand protections for existing ocean and coastal areas, increase investments in wetland restoration, and establish strong interagency coordination for conservation and research in ocean and coastal health.
To transform America’s public lands and waters from a source of greenhouse gas emissions into a cornerstone of an ambitious climate strategy, the U.S. government must develop and implement a comprehensive and aggressive public lands climate plan to reduce emissions from fossil fuel extraction, increase renewable energy development, and protect and restore natural landscapes across the country.
The massive scale of the challenge before us—preparing the country for the climate impacts to come—demands a commensurate federal response. Congress should call for a unified, all-of-government approach that prepares communities, especially those on the frontlines of the climate crisis, to confront future threats to assure social, environmental, and economic resilience against the changes that we can no longer avoid.
Congress needs to take a multi-pronged, tailored approach to the transportation sector to drive down emissions and increase the sector’s resilience in the face of worsening climate impacts. Improving a vehicle’s efficiency, for example, will not be enough if that vehicle travels farther each year.
To prevent loss of life, maintain healthy forest ecosystems, and reduce wildfire damage, the federal government needs to work with states, local governments, tribes, and territories to identify, mitigate, and prepare for current and future wildfire risks. Fire resilient communities need to plan carefully about how and where to build, and fire resilient forests need to be managed to balance ecological and human concerns.