The POW Dispatch: Our take on climate news, April 2, 2021
WORDS: DONNY O’NEILL | HEADER IMAGE: LOUIS AREVALO
Welcome to The Dispatch, Protect Our Winters’ weekly wrap-up of climate news, complete with our take on each topic and how that impacts our ongoing efforts to reduce the effects of climate change.
Before we dive into this week’s Dispatch, we encourage you to take our survey to assist us in planning for the next four years… oh yeah, a few lucky survey takers will win some rad prizes. Take the survey, here.
The news story that dominated this week’s headlines is President Biden’s unveiling of his ambitious $2 trillion infrastructure plan. As expected, climate change plays a massive role in the plan, and we outline exactly what that looks like, below.
We also explore new climate legislation introduced in Colorado, the upcoming Earth Day climate summit, the reappearance of a familiar webpage and more. Dive into this week’s POW Dispatch.
A wind turbine in Colorado.
Photo: Donny O’Neill
“The American Jobs Plan will invest in America in a way we have not invested since we built the interstate highways and won the Space Race.” — White House officials
President Joe Biden announced his American Jobs Plan on Wednesday afternoon in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This is the Biden Administration’s recommendation to Congress on what to include in the final infrastructure package, and, as anticipated, climate action is a huge player throughout the plan.
Here are a few of the preliminary provisions tied to climate action; it’s quite a long list, so bear with us. Sort of like when you unpack your backpack after a long hike into your campsite and you wonder, “how the hell did I pack so much stuff in there?”
The $2 trillion, eight-year package very much centers on a swift transformation of the transportation and energy sectors, the two biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the country. The plan calls for a Clean Electricity Standard, a federal mandate requiring a percentage of the United States’ electricity generation to come from zero-carbon sources like wind and solar. The plan seeks $35 billion in spending for climate change technology and the extension of clean energy tax credits for an additional decade. In addition, $100 billion would be injected into programs aimed at modernizing the electric grid to make it more reliable while also improving transmission lines from wind and solar plants often found in rural areas to larger urban centers. $16 billion would go towards a just transition for fossil fuel workers and $10 billion would be dedicated to the creation of a new “Civilian Climate Corps”—a new and diverse group of Americans employed to conserve public lands and waters, equip communities to combat climate threats and advance environmental justice.
When it comes to electrified transit, the plan outlines $174 billion in electric vehicle investments, a mandate to electrify the entire federal vehicle fleet (that’s over 645,000 vehicles, or the same as the population of Portland, Oregon!), additional rebates and incentives to purchase electric vehicles and programs for local and state governments to assist in deploying 500,000 new electric vehicle charging stations by 2030.
The American Jobs Plan is an example of POW’s Theory of Change put into practice. The Theory of Change is based on the belief that three main pillars will make up the solution to the climate crisis: Technological and financial solutions (big-scale renewables and storage, tax credits, carbon pricing) to incentivize a clean energy future; a political will, where the right people in office are working to make climate a top policy priority; and a cultural shift, where the nation’s attitude about climate change is transitioning to a position where not acting on climate is not an option.
The financial solution to all this spending? It’s not peddling used ski gear out of the back of a Subaru, although that would be cool. The plan is to pay for this by repealing all fossil fuel tax incentives (think: giving tax credits for investments in “clean coal,” which doesn’t exist) and raising the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28% over the next 15 years. There will likely be hurdles to passing all of this policy due to the funding and tax hike proposals associated with it. However, the climate-related legislation infused into the American Jobs Plan paints a picture of a climate-stabilized future that’s not only possible but within reach. The debate over this policy plan is one that we’ll be watching closely over the coming months and we’ll bring you consistent updates and takeaways throughout it all. We’ll be embarking on tons of work concerning the American Jobs Plan, and there will be plenty of opportunities to get involved.
POW Alliance Member Clare Gallagher testifies on behalf of HB 1261 in 2019.
Photo: Mike Thurk
“This bill is about meeting our climate goals, adding urgency, adding resources and making sure we are implementing the greenhouse gas roadmap plan.” — Senator Faith Winter, one of three Democratic prime sponsors of Senate Bill 200.
Way back in 2019, POW and the Outdoor State had a huge hand in getting House Bill 1261 passed into law. The bill created a ladder of goals ultimately reducing carbon pollution in the state by 90% by 2050 compared to 2005 levels. At the time, we applauded newly-elected Governor Jared Polis for helping to make it a reality. In January, Polis released the state’s Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Roadmap, which outlined voluntary programs and targets. This was a great first step, but in order to achieve the emissions reduction goals in Colorado, the plan needs to be specific, measurable and achievable, not left up to voluntary action. Now, Democratic lawmakers have introduced legislation meant to hold the state of Colorado and Governor Polis to those commitments by putting the pollution reductions into law, setting strict deadlines and injecting the effort with more money.
The bill, as passed and signed into law in 2019, laid out targets of a 26% emissions reduction by 2025, 50% by 2030 and 90% by 2050. The Roadmap also includes key steps to achieving 2030 targets, including the transition away from coal to renewables, reductions in methane pollution from oil and gas development, a shift to electric vehicles, increased building efficiencies and more. However, the roadmap lacked firm caps on pollution, regulatory policies for emissions cuts and embraced incremental rules and voluntary action. Have you ever “winged it” when planning an adventure in the woods without consulting a map, setting expectations and providing timelines? You get lost pretty easily, and people tend to pick someone else to plan the next adventure. We don’t want Governor Polis to just wing it and rely on voluntary actions from big carbon emitters.
In short, the proposed legislation from Colorado democrats aims to give regulatory teeth to Governor Polis’ Roadmap. It sets a hard date for the implementation of new regulations by the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission of March 1, 2022. It also introduces a new fee on greenhouse gas emissions, requiring companies to pay $32 per ton during the current fiscal year and $36 per ton over the next fiscal years, with the price being adapted for the future after that. New revenue from these emissions would be funneled to programs that assist with the state’s climate targets, with a portion also going to fund an environmental justice advocate and advisory board within the state’s Department of Public Health and the Environment.
We’re living up to our promise to hold elected officials accountable, and this new bill will help Governor Polis and the State of Colorado across the clean energy finish line. The Roadmap falls under Governor Polis’ leadership, and we want to help make it a reality.
“The summit is part of an effort to get the United States and its partners back on track after Mr. Biden re-entered the Paris agreement, the global pact intended to avert catastrophic global warming. It is his chance to galvanize efforts to reduce emissions, set standards for limiting the warming of the atmosphere and make good on his promise that efforts to stem climate change can also create jobs.” – David E. Sanger, New York Times writer
One of the biggest downsides to the United States’ climate policies (or lack thereof) under the Trump administration was losing its status as a leader on climate action. The United States’ re-entry into the Paris Climate agreement represents a massive opportunity to regain its status as a global leader on climate, in addition to working to drastically reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
President Joe Biden invited a group of 40 global leaders to a virtual climate summit taking place on Earth Day, April 22. Think of the gathering like Kings and Queens of Corbet’s at Jackson Hole or Travis Rice’s Natural Selection event; except, instead of coming together to show off otherworldly talent on skis and snowboards, global leaders will unite to get the world back on track toward the goals of the Paris agreement.
The brainstorm session marks a huge opportunity for the United States to lead efforts to drum up collective and individual plans to reduce emissions, set new standards for limiting temperature rise and map out strategies to ensure job creation is part of the equation to curb climate change impacts.
Invitees to the climate summit include leaders of all of the United States’ major European and Asian Allies, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping and leaders from smaller nations like Bhutan and the Marshall Islands.
Unity is a key factor in achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement and it seems that under its current leadership, the United States is taking the reins on global climate action once again. The climate summit will be live-streamed beginning on April 22, and we’ll be following along closely to bring you important takeaways from the event.
“Climate facts are back on EPA’s website where they should be. Considering the urgency of this crisis, it’s critical that Americans have access to information and resources so that we can all play a role in protecting our environment, our health, and vulnerable communities.” – EPA Administrator Michael Regan.
If you remember, way back in April 2017 (we know, it feels like decades ago), the Environmental Protect Agency (EPA) scrubbed its climate change webpage in order to “reflect the agency’s new direction under President Donald Trump and Administrator Scott Pruitt.” That direction, it turned out, was to undo the climate progress made by the Obama administration, remove necessary environmental regulations and downplay the urgency needed for climate action. All-in-all, it was a dastardly move with detrimental consequences to the effort to protect our outdoor spaces from climate change.
Thankfully, the EPA reinstated that very same climate change webpage last week, updating the site with current information regarding greenhouse gas emissions data and statistics, climate change impacts and scientific reports. So, why does having a fancy website matter? Having a regularly updated resource of information available to the general public is vital to successfully spur a cultural shift to how the nation views climate change and its current and potential impacts. This cultural shift is one of the three pillars, along with financial and technological advancements and political will, that we believe will ensure the United States can reach carbon neutrality by mid-century, in accordance with the goals of the Paris Agreement. With factual scientific data and the acknowledgment of the threat of climate change back in federal communications after a four-year absence, the country can get back to work enacting policies to reduce the impacts of climate change for ourselves and future generations.
Photo: Donny O’Neill
“The White House rolled out initiatives Monday aimed at jump-starting the development of large offshore wind farms that together would power over 10 million homes.”
On Monday, the Biden Administration unveiled a new initiative aimed at jumpstarting offshore wind development in the United States. The initiative spans the Departments of the Interior, Energy and Commerce and commits to a common goal of generating 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030. Currently, research firm Bloomberg NEF forecasts that the United States will have 19.64 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2030, meaning the Biden Administration projections go well beyond the offshore projects currently in place. While offshore wind is a massive opportunity for renewable energy generation, the United States is very early in its exploration of harnessing wind originating from the country’s oceans.
As part of the announcement on Monday, the government outlined plans for increased DOI offshore wind lease auctions, formal environmental studies of a project off the coast of New Jersey planned by Danish wind company Ørsted, the use of DOT and DOE funding to catalyze development and new research and development efforts, including a data-sharing agreement between Ørsted and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The White House’s summary also outlines the opportunity for new domestic supply chain creation, such as steel production, and the claim that meeting the development target could create 44,000 offshore wind jobs in 2030 and 33,000 jobs related to offshore wind. Additionally, big energy companies including Equinor, Shell and BP, have already become involved in partnerships for United States offshore wind projects, spurred by an increased government focus on renewables. All of this together—job creation, domestic manufacturing, research and development partnerships, government policies—represent a confluence of financial and technological solutions, political will and a cultural shift in the country’s views on climate change. Together, these three pillars can catapult the United States to carbon neutrality by 2050, which aligns with the goals of the Paris Agreement.
With disagreement about development sites for onshore renewables, turning to America’s coastlines for space to increase the country’s wind energy output is an obvious solution. Anyone who has braved the gusty beaches of, say, Cape Cod, knows how powerful the wind can be on America’s coastlines. Harnessing that power can be a big piece of America’s renewable energy puzzle. See for yourself: Check out this rad tool that shows the daily forecast for wind electricity generation in your community.
Local Climate News
While national climate topics often dominate the news cycle, there’s still plenty going on surrounding renewables, electrified transit, public lands and more in states and local communities across the nation. Take a look at what’s going on locally via the news blurbs below.