Unleashing an American-led clean energy economy to reach net-zero emissions
It’s often said that nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come. In 2021, that idea is powerfully simple: We can reach net-zero emissions in the United States by the middle of the century, all while creating millions of jobs, ensuring justice for vulnerable Americans, protecting our public health and our national security, and strengthening communities against more frequent and costly extreme weather events. By the time we reach 2050, we’ll be able to look back knowing we saved countless lives, reduced pollution across the board and met our science-based deadline to protect families and businesses from climate-fueled risks.
We have a long road ahead of us, and there are hundreds of policies and solutions that can help get us to net zero. In fact, I’ve counted at least 700 of them. Last Congress, I was tasked with putting together a comprehensive framework of policies to solve the climate crisis, as the chair of the newly formed House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. With the help of my colleagues — and with the valued advice of scientists, environmental justice champions, farmers, tribal leaders, union members and countless other experts — I led our select committee as we drafted the Climate Crisis Action Plan, which includes hundreds of policy recommendations to help the United States reach net-zero emissions by 2050, or earlier, and net-negative emissions thereafter. When we released the plan last summer, one journalist called it “the most detailed and well-thought-out plan for addressing climate change that has ever been a part of U.S. politics.” This Congress, we’re building on that progress by helping turn our recommendations into legislation, including ambitious bills like the wide-ranging Climate Leadership and Environmental Action for our Nation’s (CLEAN) Future Act.
Introduced by Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), along with subcommittee chairs Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) and Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), the CLEAN Future Act would significantly reduce pollution in the United States by decarbonizing the power sector, the building sector, the transportation sector and the industrial sector. As a longtime member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, I’m amazed by the breadth of this legislative effort; if passed, this bill alone would help get America to net zero by 2050. The CLEAN Future Act will ensure American families can power their homes with 100 percent clean electricity by creating a nationwide clean electricity goal. It also will make our buildings more energy efficient, reduce pollution from surface transportation and construction, and put environmental justice at the center of our nation’s environmental laws. Most importantly, the CLEAN Future Act will put millions of Americans to work. It will allow us to hire utility workers to bring cleaner, cheaper energy to millions of homes and businesses, as well as welders, roofers, plumbers, engineers and auto workers. And it will ensure our progress in the years ahead won’t leave behind Black, brown and tribal communities, or the low-income Americans whose lives have been further upended by the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Before the pandemic, the clean energy sector was already the fastest growing job creator in America. And as we invest in building the infrastructure needed for more energy efficient homes and electric vehicles, we can put millions of Americans to work in blue-collar jobs that don’t require a college degree. Solving the climate crisis means rebuilding our nation in a way that makes our economy stronger, our way of life more sustainable and our society more just. Take solar and wind energy: By investing in these clean sources of electricity, we can save families money on their utility bills, bring union jobs to communities across the nation, reduce our dependence on foreign oil and drive down pollution to help us meet our emissions goals. The same goes for infrastructure spending: Every $1 we spend on resilience and mitigation saves us $6 in reduced costs and risks, as we make every penny go toward protecting communities instead of waiting for the next disaster to strike.
There has never been a more crucial time to act on climate. It’s incredible to think of the many challenges our nation can tackle at once by working to unleash an American-led clean energy economy, whether it’s through advancing renewable technologies or making our infrastructure more resilient. It’s time we make the right investments that will power our 21st century economy, putting Americans to work and helping us reach net zero as fast as the science requires.
Castor is chairwoman of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis.