US takes step towards 2050 net-zero target with sweeping climate bill

The IPCC has stated that achieving the Paris Agreement's 1.5C pathway will require net global emissions to reach zero by 2050

The Climate Leadership and Environmental Action for our Nation’s Future Act, also known as the CLEAN Act, is headlined by the long-term climate target and also contains targets for the highest-emitting sectors, including energy and transport, that will become legally binding.

On energy, the CLEAN Act would require the proportion of ‘clean’ generation in the electricity mix to rise to 80% by 2030. ‘Clean’ generation is defined as renewable and nuclear. By 2035, the US will cease using fossil fuels to produce electricity if the Act passes.

On transport, the Bill would authorise $100m to be spent annually between 2022 and 2031 on the installation of public charging points for electric vehicles (EVs). It would also bind the Energy Secretary’s office to assessing where EV charging stations are needed.

Democratic Representatives Frank Pallone, Paul Tonko and Bobby Rush introduced the Act late on Tuesday (2 March). The legislation was developed with input from the Biden administration, so the President’s final sign-off should not be a challenge. However, the Act needs to pass committees, then the full House and Senate, and the Democratic Party only holds a thin majority in the Senate.

Pallone has told media representatives that the administration was weighing the inclusion of carbon tax plans but believed that clean energy standards would be more popular among Republican representatives. He has also stated that it would be preferable to amend the Act than to throw it out, given the US’s re-joining of the Paris Agreement and the climate commitments Biden made on the campaign trail.

A world off track

Carbon Brief states that more than 60% of global carbon emissions will be covered by a net-zero ambition because of Biden’s climate commitments – provided that the Act is passed. Other nations to have set net-zero or carbon-neutral commitments in the last year include Japan, South Korea, Canada and China.

However, a report from the UN this week warned that many nations are failing to underpin their long-term climate coals with credible measures to cut emissions this decade.

The report, from the UNFCCC, analysed the 48 national emission reduction goals that it received during 2020.  It counts the EU’s goals as one submission. The damning conclusion is that existing pledges, if enacted in full, will result in global annual emissions in 2030 that are just 1% lower than in 2010. In comparison, the reduction would need to be 45% to deliver the Paris Agreement’s 1.5C trajectory.

Sarah George

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