2020 is a benchmark year for attaining sustainability and climate goals.
Last week, House Energy and Commerce Democrats released a legislative framework for addressing climate change through economy-wide solutions, including the power sector, buildings, transportation, and industry.
In July 2019, the Committee adopted the ambitious goal of reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The draft Climate Leadership and Environmental Action for our Nation’s (CLEAN) Future Act is the Democratic Committee members’ plan for meeting that goal. The full text of draft legislation will be released later this month. Many of the provisions in the framework are in line with NLC’s resolutions on climate mitigation, adaptation and resilience, including a national goal of 50% carbon neutral energy by 2030 and 100% by 2050.
The CLEAN Future Act framework has a few key features for cities to take note of, including:
- A national clean energy standard requiring all retail electricity suppliers to buy 100% clean energy;
- A first-of-its-kind National Climate Bank to leverage public and private financing to help states, local governments and companies in the transition to a clean economy;
- Goals to improve the efficiency of new and existing buildings and appliances;
- Assistance to support adoption of and compliance with updated model building energy codes;
- Transportation sector proposals to improve vehicle efficiency, accelerate the transition to low- and zero-carbon fuels, and build the infrastructure needed for a clean transportation system.
While the proposal is unlikely to move in the Senate, House leaders could dedicate floor time to it later this year.
The framework comes as the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis is developing a report on policy recommendations for addressing climate change. Last fall, both committees conducted an information request to solicit information from stakeholders on policy proposals. NLC weighed in on policies to mitigate the impacts of climate change, support local adaptation efforts, and build community resilience. We will continue to call for the federal government to be a partner to local governments in addressing climate change, while not preempting state or local authority to take action.
Earlier this year, the Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing on how state and local leaders are responding to the climate crisis. The committee heard testimony from a bipartisan group of mayors including Mayor Steve Benjamin, Columbia, SC; Mayor Jackie Biskupski, Salt Lake City, UT; and Mayor James Brainard, Carmel, IN on the impacts that climate change is having on their communities and how they are preparing their communities and infrastructure to be more resilient.
The mayors emphasized that local leadership on climate change is pragmatic in nature – as first responders, they have no choice but to take steps to protect the health, safety and welfare of their residents. The mayors called on the federal government to be a strong partner in supporting these local efforts.
To that end, NLC supports H.R. 2088, to reauthorize the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG). The EECBG was created in 2007 and funded in 2009, and this legislation would reauthorize the program at $35 billion annually from 2021-2025, and in turn would provide much needed resources to communities across the country to undertake projects to reduce energy use, to diversify energy supplies, and to improve air quality and the environment.
The EECBG helped state and local governments pursue a wide range of projects including energy retrofits of government buildings, deployment of LED street lighting, deployment of solar energy systems on public buildings, revision of building codes to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy, and installation of EV charging and alternative fuel pumps.
Finally, as transportation reauthorization heats up, the Senate’s bill, S. 2302, contains a first-ever climate change title, which is aimed at reducing carbon emissions from the transportation sector through a mix of formula and competitive grant programs. The bill also establishes a program to support projects that will improve the resilience of roads and bridges to natural disasters and extreme weather events. NLC continues to monitor the reauthorization process.
Local leaders will continue to make their voices heard on this critical issue, drive progress on climate action, and demonstrate the local commitment to building resilient communities.
About the Author: Carolyn Berndt is the program director for infrastructure and sustainability on the NLC Federal Advocacy team. Follow Carolyn on Twitter at @BerndtCarolyn.