By Christiana Figureres, March 2021
Imagine: when the babies born this year are all grown up, they will not know the smell of traffic fumes. They will never have to wave their hand in front of their face trying to fan away the stench of a passing car or truck as they walk their children to school. Their bodies won’t have accumulated toxic exhaust pollution particles that cause asthma, cancer, stroke, heart disease and developmental problems. They won’t have air pollution listed on their death certificates. This is not a pipe dream. It’s the necessary and achievable future we must decisively choose, and momentum to get us there is already building. Governments are busy calling for end dates for the internal combustion engine, or announcing them – California and the UK by 2035, France and Canada by 2040. Auto manufacturers are doing the same. This is all part of a ‘tectonic’ shift happening across the world as governments, investors and businesses pursue the benefits of climate action by moving away from fossil fuels.
It’s critical we hit the accelerator on electrification because transportation is responsible for a big chunk of global carbon emissions: 16%, and a much higher proportion of national emissions in other places like the US, where it’s 30% and growing. The correct trajectory for those emissions is a reduction of 50% by 2030 if we’re to stick within the Paris Agreement’s temperature goals & secure a future fit for life.
To get these reductions, which are so critical for our climate and our health, the transportation sector has to undergo a radical reimagining – at speed! Simply replacing old cars with new ones won’t be enough. The resilient, thriving future many of us are working towards certainly isn’t full of ever-increasing car parks, tarmac and gridlock. We need new, better infrastructure design and cities that have more room for walking, cycling, public transport, food production and green space. And that’s what makes this moment we find ourselves in now so exciting: there is just so much good work still to be done in terms of re-imagining and doing differently, of choosing better ways to get around.
A huge amount of transformative work is already happening as part of the Race to Zero campaign, in which accelerating the adoption of zero emissions vehicles is a key pillar. COP26, now less than eight months away, is the first big, real test of the Paris Agreement. Over the course of this year, governments are expected to come back to the table with bigger, better plans for reducing their emissions and supporting others to do the same. I’m looking forward to lots of good progress there over the next few months, especially with President Biden’s climate summit coming up in April.
Outrage + Optimism Race to Zero series delves into the big goals with COP26 President, Alok Sharma, UNFCCC Executive Secretary, Patricia Espinosa and High Level Climate Action Champion, Nigel Topping. We talked about the strong role the private sector and citizens play in galvanising ambition from governments; the major opportunities for change this year, and the fact that by the time we get to the government negotiations at COP26 in Glasgow, most of the commitments required to assure the future will already be inked. We heard how the UK will use its Presidency of the G7 and other forums to build stronger action frames, especially for developing countries.
The thrill of speed was the theme on this week’s Outrage + Optimism.Extreme E and Count Us In have just launched an activation platform behind the new Extreme E off-road competition. The goal is to harness the power of motorsport to inspire fans to take action on climate change. The team at Extreme E are deeply passionate human beings, they’re committed to change, and I urge you to tune in to hear them talk about how excited they are to be playing a role in securing our fossil-fuel-free future faster.
March 18, 2021 by Common Dreams House Dems Urged to Cut ‘Fossil Fuels and False Solutions’ From CLEAN Future Act
Over 300 groups called the bill a “prime example of the type of half-measure we must avoid.”by Jessica Corbett, staff writer
Over 300 advocacy groups argue that the CLEAN Future Act’s Clean Electricity Standard “should rigorously define clean energy to include proven solutions like wind, solar, storage, and efficiency—and exclude all fossil fuels and other false solutions.” (Photo: David Clarke/cc/flickr)
As a U.S. House panel held a hearing Thursday on clean energy legislation introduced earlier this month by key Democrats, more than 300 environmental and justice organizations sent a letter to Congress raising alarm about the role of “false solutions” including fossil fuels, biomass, and nuclear power in the proposal.
“Sacrificing the very definition of ‘clean’ in order to achieve 100% clean energy is self-defeating.”
The Climate Leadership and Environmental Action for our Nation’s (CLEAN) Future Act is being spearheaded by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee Chair Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) and Energy Subcommittee Chair Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.).
According the advocacy groups’ letter (pdf), “The CLEAN Future Act (H.R. 1512) is a prime example of the type of half-measure we must avoid.”
Specifically, they assert that the legislation’s nationwide Clean Electricity Standard (CES), which would require all retail electricity suppliers to obtain 100% clean power by 2035, “should rigorously define clean energy to include proven solutions like wind, solar, storage, and efficiency—and exclude all fossil fuels and other false solutions.”
“Sacrificing the very definition of ‘clean’ in order to achieve 100% clean energy is self-defeating,” the letter says, which furthers warns that the bill “contradicts itself” by including “encouraging environmental justice provisions that would benefit communities disproportionately exposed to pollution and climate impacts,” but also pushing policies “that do not stop emissions or other pollution at their source.
Pallone and the other sponsors made clear when unveiling the legislation that they believe overhauling the U.S. energy system is essential. He said the bill’s introduction “promises that we will not stand idly by as the rest of the world transitions to clean economies and our workers get left behind, and that we will not watch from the sidelines as the climate crisis wreaks havoc on Americans’ health and homes.”
“This bill… fails to grasp the fundamental truth of fighting climate change: We must stop extracting and burning fossil fuels as soon as possible.”
—Mitch Jones, Food & Water Watch
While the measure received some praise from climate campaigners, progressive green groups have reiterated concerns raised when Pallone put forth the bill during the previous congressional session.
In the words of Mitch Jones, policy director at Food & Water Watch, “While this bill has been marginally improved, it fails to grasp the fundamental truth of fighting climate change: We must stop extracting and burning fossil fuels as soon as possible.”
Highlighting the impacts that coal, oil, and gas production have on the health of nearby communities as well as the climate, the letter says that “the idea that any fossil fuels should qualify under a CES even on the basis of ‘partial credits’ is an astounding concession that would subsidize existing fracked gas infrastructure and slow the deployment of cleaner and cheaper renewables.”
“Burning biomass is uniquely dangerous to both the climate and public health,” the letter continues, noting that “biomass power plants and garbage incinerators emit more carbon dioxide and harmful air pollutants per unit of energy than coal plants, including nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, heavy metals, and particulate matter, the leading cause of air pollution-related deaths in the country.”
“The fuel chain for nuclear power begins with mining, milling, and enriching uranium, all of which are carbon-intensive processes that generate vast amounts of radioactive and toxic wastes,” the groups add. “As a consequence, the industry is rooted in environmental injustice and human rights violations.”
As for CCS, the groups point out environmental, health, and safety risks, and warn that “technological carbon capture applied to high-emitting sources like petrochemical or fossil fuel power plants acts as a license to continuing polluting.
The letter declares that “increasing the use of false solutions increases environmental racism, undercutting the environmental justice proposals in the current version of the CLEAN Future Act and rendering them specious.”
“Environmental justice must not be viewed as or reduced to a theory or political talking point,” the groups emphasize. “It is a set of living principles that must be practiced in an effort to dismantle years and decades of systemic racism, dehumanization, extraction, and the rendering of Black, brown, Indigenous, and poor communities into sacrifice zones.”
“As we look to combat the climate crisis, it will be crucial to resist the disingenuous efforts of polluters to co-opt clean energy,” they conclude. “Allowing dirty energy to be bundled with clean energy under a CES would prolong the existence of sacrifice zones around dirty energy investments and delay the transition to a system of 100 percent truly clean energy.”
The pressure on Democrats to clean up the bill comes as President Joe Biden is planning to host a climate summit next month and hundreds of advocacy groups from across the globe are pushing his administration to commit the United States to its “fair share” of climate action, including by ending subsidies for the fossil fuel industry.Our work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. Feel free to republish and share widely.