Meeting the Challenge of Climate Change
Smart Climate Policy Secures a Cleaner, Healthier Future for All
Acting on climate is no longer just about defending against loss, it’s about scoring gains for our economy and communities. Many climate solutions offer the opportunity for more jobs, more consumer choice, lower costs, cleaner air and water, better soil quality and better health for everyone. We can meet the growing and changing needs of Americans while ensuring a prosperous, equitable, clean and secure energy future.
The Threat is Real, the Solutions are Now
The threat posed by the climate challenge is undeniable. A 2019 study by EPA scientists esitimated that by 2090, carbon emissions in a 4.5°C warming scenario could cost the US economy $224 billion more annually, and result in 9,300 more heat-related deaths annually than if warming were limited to 2.5°C. The solutions to climate change—increasing energy efficiency, investing in renewable energy, appropriately pricing carbon, modernizing the grid, transitioning to electric vehicles and increasing the use of nature-based solutions— also offer more jobs, more consumer choice, lower costs, cleaner air and water, better soil quality and better health for everyone.
The U.S. economy is rapidly transforming. In the next decade we will reinvent infrastructure, business models and services in many sectors, including energy, transportation, agriculture, and working lands. We must mobilize smart policies and practices so that all Americans benefit equitably, particularly frontline communities that have been disproportionately burdened and left out of the decision-making process.
Benefits of a Low-Carbon Future
A low-carbon future and its benefits are already becoming a reality:
- Nearly 2.4 million Americans are employed in energy efficiency, and over half a million are employed in wind and solar. Employment in this sector was hit hard by the COVID pandemic and has fallen 12%.
- The cost of renewable energy is reaching all-time lows. Over the past decade, the cost of solar modules has dropped 92% over the last decade, wind turbines are down nearly 50%, and lithium-ion battery prices have fallen 87%.
- Energy efficiency has led to a decoupling of economic growth and energy use. Over the past 10 years, the U.S. gross domestic product reached record highs, yet electricity sales in the United States remained relatively flat.
- America’s largest automakers have made strong commitments to EV production. General Motors has committed to 30 different vehicles on the market by 2025, and Ford is spending $11.5 billion on EV development by 2022.
The solutions to climate change are no mystery. We know what causes it, and we know what to do about it. We are encouraged by a growing bipartisan consensus around the need to find workable and effective solutions—evidenced by the creation of the Senate Climate Solutions Caucus in October 2019, following in the footsteps of the similar effort in the House. The Nature Conservancy (TNC) remains committed to promoting solutions:
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. Several bipartisan carbon pricing bills were introduced in the 116th Congress, such as the MARKET CHOICE Act. These bills offer model design elements to inform future legislation, including how to set ambitious, enforceable targets, where to direct revenues, how to mitigate disproportionate impacts to vulnerable communities, and how to coordinate with complementary state and federal policies. TNC is a member of the CEO Climate Dialogue, a coalition of leading companies and NGOs urging Congress to pass market-based climate change legislation.
Driving Innovation and Research
Congress should support research, development and deployment of clean energy and other technologies that reduce emissions and drive innovation and growth. TNC strongly supports the bipartisan American Energy Innovation Act (S. 2657) and Clean Economy Jobs and Innovation Act (H.R. 4447) and encourages Congress to pass a much-needed energy package before the end of the year. Key provisions in the bill include reauthorization and funding for ARPA-E, which advances energy technologies not ready for private investment; multiple provisions pushing energy efficiency; the EFFECT Act and Fossil Energy Research and Development Act, which invest in carbon capture, storage and use; the Better Energy Storage Technology Act; the Clean Industrial Technology Act, which promotes improvements in manufacturing and industrial processes that reduce emissions; and the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act.
Phasing Out Long-Lived Greenhouse Gases
TNC supports efforts to phase out hydrofluorocarbons. The American Innovation and Manufacturing Act, supported by a wide array of interests, is an important near-term opportunity to reduce these long-lived greenhouse gas emissions. The bill would help the United States meet its commitments under the Montreal Protocol—known as the Kigali Amendment—which TNC recommends the Senate ratify.
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. To better integrate these technologies, Congress should provide funding or financing tools to help modernize the electric grid. To that end, TNC supports expanding or extending existing tax credits for storage systems and electric vehicle purchases, as well as funding charging infrastructure in critical highway corridors.
Advancing Natural Climate Solutions
Natural and working lands already reduce total US emissions by approximately 12 percent annually, while also keeping people and nature healthier. Emissions reductions could be tripled by protecting and restoring natural ecosystems and by farmers and foresters adopting management practices. Congress could accelerate the uptake of natural climate solutions by supporting incentives and market-based programs, such as those in the Growing Climate Solutions Act, the Rural Forest Markets Act, the REPLANT Act, and the recommendations of the newly formed Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance. Improving information on the land sector greenhouse gas inventory would further strengthen these efforts.