Since 1996, Clean Air Task Force has worked to design and implement international, federal, and local policy solutions for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other air pollutants to protect human health and avert the worst effects of climate change while protecting vulnerable communities. Our climate goal now is net-zero greenhouse gas emissions no later than 2050. So, as we enter a new decade, here’s Clean Air Task Force’s U.S. federal policy platform that we’ll need to get us there.
Deploy renewable energy and commercialize the firm, zero-carbon technologies needed for full decarbonization.
Almost forty percent of U.S. power supply already comes from zero-emitting sources such as wind, solar, hydropower and nuclear. We can reach 100 percent zero-carbon electricity production within the coming decades by spurring deployment of renewable energy and firm, zero-carbon technologies such as advanced nuclear energy, and carbon capture in the near term. We must recognize and support the promise of cleaner fuels like hydrogen to decarbonize the transportation and industrial sectors in the longer term.
Nearly half of U.S. power sales take place in a state or utility service territory committed to net-zero carbon emissions. A federal clean energy standard would provide market certainty to utilities and ratepayers around the country and create incentives for the right mix of variable renewable and firm, zero-carbon resources.
Create and protect strong standards and regulations that significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
A strong, focused, and immediate regulatory agenda under current authorities such as the Clean Air Act is critically important. Federal agencies can immediately act to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 65%. The Environmental Protection Agency must also take steps to dramatically lower carbon and conventional air pollutant emissions from the power sector, industrial sources, and vehicles in the next decade. These goals work together – an aggressive greenhouse gas emissions reduction target of 50% averaged across all domestic transportation modes by 2035 is achievable in part through electrification and through availability of zero-carbon fuels. By investing in the next generation of fuels and infrastructure, while reducing emissions from the electric power sector, we can support an entirely zero-carbon transportation system.
Communities of color and low-income communities have suffered for decades near existing fossil-fuel fired power plants and other industrial facilities and should be supported in efforts to pair climate and clean air reductions at the facilities that remain online in order to improve local health outcomes.
Invest in RD&D for advanced clean energy options that will decarbonize transportation and industry.
The federal government must aggressively fund a research, development and deployment agenda for clean energy that is at least an order of magnitude greater than we have now and will cover well beyond first-of-a-kind projects. The Department of Energy can prioritize development of more innovative technologies and their direct application, including advanced nuclear, fission and fusion, enhanced geothermal, carbon capture and storage, hydrogen and other zero-carbon fuels production and transport, and industrial decarbonization projects. These innovations will be essential to the build out of a zero-carbon transportation system, heavy industrial sector, and a power grid that can support clean, expanded electrification while improving public health in all communities.
Provide targeted incentives for zero-carbon energy options across all sectors.
Expansion of clean energy investment by government will need to be complemented with commercial side funding. Tax incentives and large infrastructure grants can put technologies like advanced renewables and carbon capture to work for consumers. Price supports for clean energy could be important levers in addition to new institutions directing investment like a National Climate Bank. Finally, the power of federal procurement should be focused on building zero-carbon projects that directly deliver climate reductions in the form of clean power, materials, and infrastructure to communities.
Transition away from unabated fossil fuels.
It is time to move the United States away from any fossil fuels that do not fully capture and sequester their carbon and mitigate their methane emissions.
Build the infrastructure for our future carbon-free energy system.
Infrastructure investment to support our ailing economy can be done with climate change in mind. It is important to plan today for the infrastructure needed to achieve net-zero emissions. Widescale adoption of new, clean technologies will require expanded onshore and offshore electric transmission to support dispersed renewable energy sources, facilities for producing and moving zero-carbon fuels like hydrogen and ammonia, and carbon dioxide transport connecting industrial carbon capture and direct air capture facilities with saline geologic storage sites.
The federal government will need to spend significant dollars and support those communities that must navigate this transition. Areas that historically have been dependent on fossil fuels and communities where pollution has had disproportionate impacts due to racial discrimination and injustice must be priorities.