Example of a solar installation in Las Vegas, doubling as a shade provider at the Las Vegas Springs Preserve.
Example of a solar installation, doubling as a shade provider. © Dave Lauridsen

Policy

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. The Nature Conservancy (TNC) remains committed to promoting the following solutions:

CEOClimateDialogue.org

Learn about the CEO Climate Dialogue & its guiding principles for federal climate action

What We're Doing

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 2018, TNC joined nongovernmental organization partners and 36 companies to applaud the Republican-backed MARKET CHOICE Act, which would abolish the federal gas tax, replacing it with a carbon fee and reinvesting the revenues in infrastructure repairs and strategies that pave the way to a low-carbon economy. 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.

Polling from 2019 indicates 79% of registered voters support the United States generating 50% or more of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

Driving Innovation and Research

While Congress seeks broader agreement on comprehensive, market-based climate legislation, Congress should continue to support research, development and deployment of clean energy and other advanced technologies to further reduce emissions while driving innovation and economic growth. Examples of legislation with bipartisan support include reauthorization and adequate funding for the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy, which advances energy technologies not ready for private investment; the USE IT, EFFECT and FERD acts, which cover carbon capture, storage and use; the Clean Industrial Technology Act, which seeks to advance improvements in manufacturing and other industrial processes that reduce their emissions; and the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act. TNC also supports a robust research and development program for natural and technological solutions for carbon removal.

Solar panels adjacent to an elementary school in Antelope Valley.
Finding Better Energy Sources Wind turbines above The Nature Conservancy's Hole In The Mountain Prairie near Lake Benton, Minnesota. © Dave Lauridsen/The Nature Conservancy

Phasing Out Long-Lived Greenhouse Gases

TNC supports efforts to phase out hydrofluorocarbons—a potent greenhouse gas—which could help the United States meet its commitments under the Montreal Protocol, which is known as the Kigali Amendment. Implementing the Kigali Amendment is one of the most significant near-term opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It has garnered broad bipartisan support as well as support from a wide array of corporate and environmental interests. Together with these partners, TNC supports immediate Senate ratification of the Kigali Amendment.

Roughly 70% of voters say the federal government should do more on climate change. Almost the same amount (69%) believe their members of Congress should do more, with 40% saying they should do much more.

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. Integrating these new devices will require investments in information technology and data analytics, new standards for digital communication and updated regulatory frameworks. Congress should provide funding or financing tools to modernize the electric grid. TNC also supports the Energy Storage Tax Incentive and Deployment Act, which expands existing tax credits to include energy storage systems, and several policies that increase the adoption of electric vehicles, including expanding the existing tax credit for electric vehicle purchases through the Driving America Forward Act and providing funding for charging infrastructure in critical highway corridors.

Advancing Natural Climate Solutions

A fifth of the nation’s carbon emissions could be addressed by better managing the natural and working lands that are already providing open space, growing the country’s food and cleaning its water. A 2018 study found planting more trees could remove the equivalent of 65 million vehicles from the road. Conserving grasslands and using cover crops also provide significant carbon benefits. TNC is working to jump-start local projects around the country to provide income to local landowners who are conserving lands for carbon benefit in addition to their life-giving benefits to air, water and wildlife.

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.