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Senate bill requires US to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050

Senate bill requires US to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050
© Greg Nash

A group of mostly Democratic senators has introduced a bill that would require the U.S. to phase out carbon emissions by 2050, placing their faith almost entirely in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to carry out the process.

The Clean Economy Act, led by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Kerry says Paris climate deal alone 'is not enough' | EPA halts planned Taiwan trip for Wheeler| EPA sued over rule extending life of toxic coal ash ponds Overnight Energy: Biden names John Kerry as 'climate czar' | GM reverses on Trump, exits suit challenging California's tougher emissions standards | United Nations agency says greenhouse gas emissions accumulating despite lockdown decline GSA transition delay 'poses serious risk' to Native Americans, Udall says MORE (D-Del.), would require the EPA to chart the course for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2025, 2030 and 2040, reaching net-zero emissions by 2050.

“Today’s legislation I’m offering centers our country on [an] aggressive and I think achievable path to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions no later than later 2050,” Carper said in a call with reporters. “This is the quickest way we can, I think, jump-start governmentwide climate action by encouraging agencies to use the tools that they already have.”

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The bill is the first major piece of climate legislation to be introduced in the Senate this year, rolling out alongside similar efforts still developing in the House.

House Democrats have released a more than 600-page discussion draft of their bill, envisioning the same target but with detailed efforts for reducing emissions from utilities, transportation and infrastructure to reduce emissions on an economywide scale.

Carper said his bill would be an easier lift than that of his House colleagues.

“It’s a much more comprehensive bill,” he said of the House version, but his version has a broader backing from environmental and labor groups, as well as the business community.

Carper also defended the choice to rest decarbonization with the EPA, which under the Trump administration has rolled back a number of environmental regulations, including ones on coal-fired power plants that experts say could hasten climate change.

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“There are a lot of good people in the EPA,” he said, while noting a number of senate Republicans who have been more active on climate issues.

Though Carper’s bill has the backing of a number of major environmental groups, a small handful have said it is not aggressive enough.

“We need binding emission reduction targets, in line with what climate justice and historical responsibility demand, far sooner than 2050," environmental group Friends of the Earth wrote in a statement. "Unspecified interim targets are ill-suited to our moment of climate emergency and put too much faith in future administrations."