Bold Action on Carbon Emissions
U.S. must expand efforts to address the climate crisis.
It is essential Congress quickly advance climate policies and investments to meet the country’s growing and changing energy needs while ensuring a prosperous, equitable, clean and secure future for all.
Recent science confirms what has been evident for years: the Earth’s climate is changing, humans are responsible and there is little time left to act in ways that will both ensure quality of life and create jobs and economic opportunity.
Indeed, a United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report released in 2022 concluded that “any further delay in concerted anticipatory global action on adaptation and mitigation will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a livable and sustainable future for all.”
This is a resounding call to accelerate the momentum for climate action, and in recent years, Congress has demonstrated its commitment to a clean energy transition.
In 2020, it approved a bipartisan bundle of clean energy measures. The following year, it passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which included historic levels of funding to protect the country from the current and future effects of climate change and will enable the expansion of clean energy across the economy.
These critical steps have established a foundation for meaningful action on climate. Still, they will deliver only a fraction of what is needed to meet the United States’ goal under the Paris Agreement of reaching 50 percent economy-wide emissions reductions by 2030.
And there are plenty of options that can get the country there—policies and investments that promise increased energy efficiency, expanded renewable energy, electric vehicle adoption and greater use of nature-based solutions. These solutions can also create jobs, expand consumer choice, lower costs, clean air and water, boost soil quality and improve public health across the country.
A prime example is a comprehensive and long-term tax incentive package supporting both mature and emerging technologies. It could include tax credits for zero-carbon energy expansion and generation, electric vehicle purchases, clean manufacturing, clean hydrogen production and capturing and permanently storing carbon.
All of these tax credits would significantly reduce emissions across the power, transportation and industrial sectors. They would also complement the infrastructure investments Congress already approved and drive progress toward the nation’s clean energy goals.
Congress should approve a suite of climate policies, investments and tax incentives that would both make meaningful progress toward the country’s climate goals and unlock the promise of innovative, cleaner industries and the jobs that come with them. Many of these proposals would also help address the disproportionate effects air pollution and climate change have on historically marginalized or underserved communities.
Transform the Power Sector. Expanded renewable energy opportunities and a modernized electricity grid will make power systems cleaner and more reliable and give consumers more control over their energy bills. Congress should:
- Extend and enhance tax credits to incentivize new renewable energy development.
- Investments, through grants or loans, for planning and building improved, more efficient transmission systems.
- Direct federal investments and policies to encourage rural electric cooperatives to add renewable energy capacity.
Reduce Transportation Emissions. The transportation sector is the largest source of carbon pollution in the United States. Shifting to electric vehicles and improving passenger rail would reduce emissions and lead to cleaner air. Congress should:
- Embrace grant programs to states and local communities for cleaner trucks and buses.
- Support electrification of vehicles and equipment at the nation’s seaports.
- Provide incentives for purchases of cleaner vehicles and additional electric vehicle infrastructure as well as grants and loans for passenger rail modernization.
Decarbonize Manufacturing. The industrial sector, which contributed 23 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in 2019, also offers the promise of new jobs in clean energy technologies. Congress should:
- Advance sector-focused tax incentives, technical assistance and loan and grant programs to produce clean energy technologies and convert manufacturing processes to cleaner, more energy-efficient options.
Incentivize Natural Climate Solutions. Natural solutions such as habitat protection and restoration and climate-smart practices on working lands can provide one-fifth of the emissions reductions needed to reach the country’s climate goals. Congress should:
- Invest in nature-based solutions to enhance climate resilience, reduce wildfire risk and restore natural areas, as well as climate-smart agriculture and forestry practices that sequester carbon, avoid emissions and create new market opportunities.
Ensure a Just and Equitable Transition. A shift to a cleaner economy should bring social benefits, especially for communities that have suffered the most from carbon pollution and those that will face challenges as they transition away from fossil fuels. Congress should:
- Make direct investments to improve local air quality, lower energy costs and expand access to clean energy.
- Approve additional tax incentives for renewable energy investments in low-income communities and those communities that rely on fossil fuel jobs.
Case Study: Building Clean Energy on Disturbed Lands
There are thousands of former mines, industrial sites and shuttered power plants across the country that are ripe for redevelopment as hubs for renewable energy.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has cataloged more than 133,000 sites across the country that, if fully developed for solar energy, could contribute to more than 1.3 million megawatts of generation capacity.
Enhanced tax incentives for siting on previously disturbed lands could help overcome cost barriers. Revitalizing these sites can bring new opportunities for local communities while helping to avoid development on farms, forests and other lands valuable for local people and wildlife.