Democrats Align on a Climate Roadmap: Now What?

Madeline Wade

The report recommends policy priorities for each sector of the economy detailing how the federal government can slash greenhouse gas emissions. While these reports largely remain messaging tools, it is important to recognize the significance of Democratic alignment on an issue that will remain a priority regardless of which party is in power.

Democrats on the Special Committee on the Climate Crisis released their climate proposal last week laying out the policies they will pursue if Democrats win majority in the Senate. This 260-page report recommends policy priorities for each sector of the economy detailing how the federal government can slash greenhouse gas emissions. Unlike the House Select Committee on the Climate Report, this report goes light on the legislative opportunities and instead focuses on high-level policy recommendations.
 
The Senate report largely aligns with Former Vice President Joe Biden’s environmental plan and the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis report. Below are some unifying themes demonstrating where Democrats are headed should they win, or maintain, control of the separate branches of government:

  • Achieving net zero emissions by 2050 is the new party standard. Daylight still remains among Democrats on when emissions reductions goals must be hit, but progressives to moderates are now aligned on a 2050 net zero emission goal.
  • High funding is a must, but how to pay for climate action remains murky. Senate Democrats recommended spending at least 2% of GDP (about $400 billion per year) on climate, which is less than Biden’s pledge to commit $2 trillion to climate over four years. What is noticeably missing from each of these proposals is how Democrats plan to pay for climate legislation on spending levels, in an environment where they are already receiving pushback from the left that proposed spending levels are not high enough.
  • Prioritizing vulnerable communities is key. Similar to Biden’s plan, Senate Democrats recommend directing 40% of climate spending towards vulnerable communities. The House report recommends multiple pieces of legislation that would make environmental justice a key principle of any new environmental policy through new positions within the federal government and additional involvement with EJ communities throughout the legislative and regulatory process.
  • Job creation and health and wellness are top arguments for these plans. Senate Democrats argue that their plan would create at least 10 million new jobs in research and development and clean energy sector according to the report. The House report highlights data showing that health and climate benefits could exceed $8 trillion by 2050 and action towards net zero emissions could avoid roughly 62,000 premature deaths per year.

Democrats have the flexibility of proposing ambitious climate proposals now with the promise of fleshing out policy proposals and implementation at a later date. All of these plans lean on the assumption that Joe Biden will be elected president and the Democratic Party taking the majority in the Senate. Even in this scenario, the Senate must find Republican support to overcome a 60-vote threshold.
 
While these reports right now largely remain messaging tools, it is important to recognize the significance of Democratic alignment on an issue that will remain a priority regardless of which party is in power. Watch for these principles to define upcoming climate debates and how Democrats discuss environmental policies.

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