Meeting the Challenge of Change
Smart Climate Policy Secures a Cleaner, Healthier Future for All
America has the opportunity to reinvent how we generate, transport and use the resources that power our economy. Acting on climate is no longer just about defending against loss, it’s about scoring gains in our economy and in our community. We can meet the growing and changing needs of Americans while ensuring a prosperous, clean and secure energy future.
The Threat is Real, the Solutions are Now
The threat posed by the earth’s changing climate is substantial. The Risky Business Project of former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and others estimates the property value of the land lost to sea level rise in the tens of billions of dollars over the next 35 years. It also estimates millions in lost productivity due to the increase in extreme heat days and impacts to crop cycles and human health.
Many of the solutions to climate change—increasing uptake of energy efficiency, investing in renewable energy sources, establishing a price on carbon, modernizing the electric grid, transitioning to electric vehicles and increasing the use of nature-based solutions—offer the opportunity for more jobs, more consumer choice, lower costs, cleaner air and water, better soil quality and better health.
The U.S. economy is undergoing rapid transformation. In the next decade there will be a reinvention of how Americans generate, store, transmit and use the resources that power the economy. New infrastructure, business models and energy and transportation services are needed to reap the full benefits of these new opportunities.
The solutions are no mystery. Climate change is not an incurable disease. We know what causes it, and we know what to do about it. We are encouraged by a growing bipartisan consensus around the need to find workable and effective solutions—we applaud the creation of the new Senate Climate Solutions Caucus in October 2019, following in the footsteps of the similar effort in the House. The Nature Conservancy (TNC) remains committed to promoting the following solutions:
Supporting Carbon Pricing
TNC believes an economy-wide price on carbon is among the most effective ways to reduce the carbon pollution causing climate change. In this Congress, four separate bipartisan carbon-pricing bills were introduced, most notably the MARKET CHOICE Act, which abolishes the federal gas tax and invests revenue in infrastructure repairs and other strategies for achieving a low-carbon economy. Other carbon-pricing bills, such as the SWAP Act, the Raise Wages Cut Carbon Act and the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, introduce key design elements that will inform future legislative action. Outside of Congress, TNC is engaged in the CEO Climate Dialogue, a coalition of leading companies urging Congress to pass climate change legislation, and is working on state and regional market-driven carbon-pricing systems.
Driving Innovation and Research
While Congress seeks broader agreement on comprehensive, market-based climate legislation, it should continue to support research, development and deployment of clean energy and other technologies that reduce emissions and drive innovation and growth. TNC strongly supports the bipartisan American Energy Innovation Act (S. 2657) and encourages Congress to pass it when legislative business resumes. Key provisions in the bill include reauthorization and funding for ARPA-E, which advances energy technologies not ready for private investment; the EFFECT Act, which covers carbon capture, storage and use; the Better Energy Storage Technology Act; the Clean Industrial Technology Act, which promotes improvements in manufacturing and industrial processes that reduce emissions; and the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act.
Phasing Out Long-Lived Greenhouse Gases
TNC supports efforts to phase out hydrofluorocarbons. The American Innovation and Manufacturing Act is an important near-term opportunity to reduce these long-lived greenhouse gas emissions. It has garnered broad support from bipartisan policymakers and a wide array of corporate and environmental interests. The bill would help the United States meet its commitments under the Montreal Protocol—known as the Kigali Amendment—which TNC recommends the Senate ratify.
Modernizing the Electric Grid
New technologies such as distributed generation, energy storage, electric vehicles and microgrids can make the power system cleaner and more reliable and give consumers more control over their energy bills. To better integrate these technologies, Congress should provide funding or financing tools to help modernize the electric grid. To that end, TNC supports the Energy Storage Tax Incentive and Deployment Act, which expands existing tax credits to include storage systems, and policies that encourage electric vehicles, such as expanding the tax credit for electric vehicle purchases through the Driving America Forward Act and funding charging infrastructure in critical highway corridors.
Advancing Natural Climate Solutions
A fifth of the nation’s carbon emissions could be addressed through natural and working lands that already provide open space, grow the country’s food and clean its water. A 2018 study found planting more trees could remove carbon equivalent to the emissions of 65 million vehicles. Congress could adopt policies and incentives and make investments that enable public land managers and local landowners to implement practices to maximize carbon sequestration in America’s forests, agricultural lands and wetlands.
Benefits of a Low-Carbon Future
The transition to a low-carbon future is already underway and offers significant economic benefits:
- More than 2.2 million Americans are employed in energy efficiency, and nearly half a million are employed in wind and solar. Wind turbine technician and photovoltaic solar installer remain two of the fastest-growing jobs in the United States.
- The cost of renewable energy is reaching all-time lows. The cost of solar modules has dropped 92% over the last decade, and wind turbines have similarly dropped by nearly 50% over the same period.
- Energy efficiency has led to a decoupling of economic growth and energy use. Over the past 10 years, the U.S. gross domestic product has reached record highs, yet electricity sales in the United States have remained relatively flat.
- The demand for all types of electric vehicles in the United States shot up by 81% in 2018, while the price of lithium-ion battery packs, a key component of battery electric vehicles, has fallen more than 70% since 2010.