State GHG reduction efforts update: Illinois (carbon-free power-sector by 2030), Vermont + Wisconsin proposes to avoid new fossil fuel infrastructure and divest from fossil fuel interests


Eric Jjemba, Dec 2020 – The Clean Energy Jobs Act can be characterized as the most ambitious state-level climate policy in the Midwest, and possibly in the nation. The bill’s lead House sponsor, Representative Ann Williams (D-Chicago) has described the bill as focusing on four key pillars

  1. Promoting jobs and economic opportunity;
  2. Putting Illinois on a path to 100% renewable energy by 2050;
  3. Reducing the equivalent of 1 million gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles from the road; and
  4. Achieving a carbon-free power-sector by 2030.

The most recent revisions to the bill have extended its length to around 900 pages – roughly 200 more than its previous iteration. Changes to the proposed legislation that have taken place in recent months have largely been focused on ensuring utility accountability and cementing equity provisions, both in response to ongoing events and shifting dynamics in the state.

The push for added measures to keep utilities in check has gained traction particularly as details have emerged surrounding the ComEd corruption scandal in which bribes were offered to state lawmakers in exchange for desired policy. An updated fact page on the bill points out that the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) will hold “new authority to oversee utility investments and rates,” and bring the public’s voice into these decisions. 

Selection of the widely respected ICC as the body responsible for approving rate hikes should instill confidence in the prospect of consumers rights’ being protected. The bill will also require that each public utility self-fund an independent monitor and chief ethics compliance officer, who will regularly provide public information on company performance and spending. Widespread ethics reforms – such as prohibiting the use of ratepayer funds in legal investigations, requiring pre-approval of all charitable contributions, and barring private meetings between utilities and ICC staff – have also been added to the bill.

The push for stronger equity provisions is aimed at reducing structural barriers that have often kept BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) businesses and communities from receiving the full benefits of clean energy policies. In this case, the move is in response to both the disproportionately harsh impacts of the pandemic on low-income individuals and communities of color as well as shortcomings of the previous climate bill (the Future Energy Jobs Act) in making good on some of its equity promises.

As The Citizens Utility Board’s Christina Uzzo told Climate XChange, “you can grow your coalition of support if you make sure to add not just job training for entry-level positions in the industry, but also create opportunities for people to own their own clean energy businesses. That’s a way to partially right some of the wrongs of historic disinvestment.”

Accordingly, CEJA seeks to expand upon FEJA programs like Illinois Solar for All, which aims to prioritize solar development and job training in economically disadvantaged communities. CEJA increases Solar for All’s budget from $30 million to $50 million annually. Moreover, the suite of additional equity provisions announced are aimed at equitable decarbonization to support communities most impacted by greenhouse gas pollution, an accelerator program to develop an advanced tier of clean energy projects for BIPOC contractors, and a “pay as you save” program allowing customers to purchase energy efficiency upgrades at a guaranteed savings with no credit score required. These measures are all in addition to an expanded job training, placement, and retention program designed to not repeat the past shortcomings of FEJA.

Legislative outlook

A recently-held virtual lobby day brought over 1,000 Illinoisans together to advocate for CEJA to be a top priority when the General Assembly reconvenes next year. Activists, community leaders, and consumers of all backgrounds and corners of the state recognize the urgency of bold legislation on climate – not in spite of the need to also address the pandemic, but because of it, considering that the same Illinois communities most ravaged by the effects of COVID-19 have long borne the brunt of air pollution, electricity rate hikes, and lack of access to good-paying energy jobs. In the event that no lame-duck session is held before new legislators take office, the bill will be re-introduced as a procedural matter. The bill’s substantial support in both houses – 56 co-sponsors in a 118-member House and 30 in the 59-member Senate – does position it well for early-2021 approval, at which point it would land on the desk of Governor J.B. Pritzker.

Governor Pritzker’s strong existing record on climate includes his 2018 campaign commitments to push the state towards ambitious renewable energy goals and a 2019 executive order entering Illinois into the U.S. Climate Alliance – a group of states committed to upholding the Paris Climate Accords formally exited by the federal government earlier this November. Most recently, the governor has reaffirmed this commitment to climate action through his Eight Principles for a Clean & Renewable Illinois Economy which puts front and center the same ideas of utility accountability and transitional equity addressed by the recent revisions to CEJA. Each of these positions and official actions by Governor Pritzker signal his likelihood to sign a Clean Energy Jobs Act into law, should it arrive on his desk next year.

A model for other states

As anticipation of CEJA’s passage mounts amongst the grassroots coalitions who have pushed the proposal forward, environmentally-minded activists and legislators across the nation can draw meaningful lessons from this bill’s journey. Particularly as the new federal administration led by President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris prepare to take climate action – such as rejoining the Paris Climate Accord – as early as day one, these activists’ push for state-level action is likely to grow bolder in scale and scope. 

The chorus of progressive voices advocating for their states to affirm commitments to meeting Paris Agreement targets, as Governor Pritzker did through the U.S. Climate Alliance, could instead become a floor for climate action, not a ceiling. As it jockeys for position as the most ambitious climate policy in the nation, the Clean Energy Jobs Act is poised to serve as a crucial model for other states.

One of the most important lessons gleaned from the enactment of CEJA’s predecessor, FEJA, was the central role of grassroots coalitions in the legislative process – from beginning to end. In what would ultimately become FEJA, “a theory of change [emerged] that the environmental/consumer groups should put forth their own bill first and work for an acceptable compromise with the utilities” rather than strictly playing defense. 

The use of this same strategy by the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition – composed of key environmental, business, & faith actors across the state – has successfully brought a robust piece of climate legislation in the form of CEJA to where it is today. In addition to this coalition-driven approach, specific elements of CEJA that can be praised and likely replicated include:

  • The bill’s unapologetic focus on job creation and job training, particularly in light of the need for an investment in recovery from the economic downturn brought on by the pandemic. CEJA also tailors numerous provisions directly towards protecting those workers transitioning out of fossil-fuel industries, such as the coal industry).
  • The implementation of an independent monitor to uphold utility accountability and designation of power to a trusted consumer agency, in this case the ICC, to protect customers, their interests, and their pocketbooks.
  • centering of environmental and economic justice made clear through targeted equity provisions that work to uplift overburdened communities.
  • An effort to build upon past successes that have already garnered public support where possible – rather than starting from scratch – such as expanding the Illinois Solar for All program.

Taken as a whole or in parts, the various provisions of CEJA could certainly provide a useful template for state-level climate action. “This transition is already underway, and CEJA would be Illinois taking the reins of that – which I think is really important,” Christina Uzzo explained. For now, the bill’s advocates will wait through the holiday season in anticipation of the legislature’s possible January return.


Vermont Climate Council plans to revamp lagging clean energy progress, Energy News Network | David Thill

Vermont is adding teeth and a new task force in an effort to get the state back on track toward its climate goals after several years of stalled progress. Vermont was an early leader on climate, adopting emission goals in 2006. After several years of progress, annual emissions increased over the last decade. In 2018, the latest year available, preliminary emissions totals were up 4% from the 1990 levels. The state legislature passed the Global Warming Solutions Act in September after overriding a veto by Gov. Phil Scott.

The new law changed Vermont’s emissions goals to requirements, allowing for legal action if state administrators fail to adopt rules that put Vermont on track to meet those requirements. The legislation also created the Vermont Climate Council, a 23-member group charged with creating comprehensive, four-year climate plans to meet the targets, including reducing emissions 40% from 1990 levels by 2030, and 80% by 2050. The state under the law is set to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Members include cabinet officials and legislative appointees from the business, utility, fuel, environmental advocacy and community development sectors. At the end of next year, the council will recommend programs and strategies to guide state policy.

As in states across the nation, meeting climate targets will require significant action in the transportation and building efficiency sectors. The council is set to submit a draft for public comment by October. It will adopt the final plan by Dec. 1, 2021. After the plan is adopted, the council will update it every four years. A similar effort is underway in Maine, where the state’s climate council recently approved its first plan. The law also establishes four subcommittees to focus on areas of particular concern as the climate plan is developed. Those subcommittees will focus on addressing rural community issues; studying natural land initiatives like carbon sequestration; ensuring the plan’s strategies and programs are cost-effective; and ensuring the strategies are equitable.

Wisconsin: Climate Change Task Force recommends creation of jobs programs, ‘Office Of Environmental Justice’

Wisconsin Public Radio | Danielle Kaeding The state of Wisconsin should create jobs programs and an “Office of Environmental Justice” to promote an equitable transition to clean energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to an expansive report listing dozens of recommendations to address climate change. The report, released Wednesday by the Governor’s Task Force On Climate Change, includes around 50 recommendations on ways to adapt to and reduce the effects of climate change across nine focus areas, including climate justice and equity, energy, transportation and agriculture. The recommendations call for policy changes and executive actions among Wisconsin’s state agencies, as well as increasing or providing funding for a variety of proposals. Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, who chairs the task force, said creating an Office of Environmental Justice will prioritize the livelihoods of people across Wisconsin as it relates to the environment. “With an Office of Environmental Justice, we can turn the page and make sure that we aren’t making the poor environmental policy decisions that not only change the climate, but have adverse impacts on the health, financial security and social and cultural lifestyles of so many people across Wisconsin,” said Barnes. The report also outlines recommendations for job creation through a green job corps pilot program in Milwaukee that would train people for the renewable energy workforce, as well as the creation of an AmeriCorps-like program to restore natural lands in rural and urban areas. 


By Danielle Kaeding, December 9, 2020

The state of Wisconsin should create jobs programs and an “Office of Environmental Justice” to promote an equitable transition to clean energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to an expansive report listing dozens of recommendations to address climate change.

The report, released Wednesday by the Governor’s Task Force On Climate Change, includes around 50 recommendations on ways to adapt to and reduce the effects of climate change across nine focus areas, including climate justice and equity, energy, transportation and agriculture. The recommendations call for policy changes and executive actions among Wisconsin’s state agencies, as well as increasing or providing funding for a variety of proposals

Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, who chairs the task force, said creating an Office of Environmental Justice will prioritize the livelihoods of people across Wisconsin as it relates to the environment.

With an Office of Environmental Justice, we can turn the page and make sure that we aren’t making the poor environmental policy decisions that not only change the climate, but have adverse impacts on the health, financial security and social and cultural lifestyles of so many people across Wisconsin,” said Barnes. 

The report also outlines recommendations for job creation through a green job corps pilot program in Milwaukee that would train people for the renewable energy workforce, as well as the creation of an AmeriCorps-like program to restore natural lands in rural and urban areas

The document doesn’t detail any specific funding requests at a time when Gov. Tony Evers has directed state agencies to cut $300 million as the state faces a budget shortfall of up to $2 billion during the COVID-19 pandemic. Barnes said they didn’t want the report’s recommendations tied to numbers and needs that can fluctuate over time. 

“It is my hope that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle will see this moment that we’re in, this moment of financial duress, of economic uncertainty, and will make the smart choices to invest now so that Wisconsin can be stronger in the long run,” said Barnes. 

He noted he will be calling on President-elect Joe Biden’s administration to include funding to support clean energy jobs as part of another COVID-19 stimulus package. Biden has proposed a $2 trillion plan to promote clean energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions that could face an uphill battle in a divided Congress. 

The task force recommended more than a dozen requests for funding including creation of a green grant and loan program to support green businesses and establishing and funding a clean energy training and reemployment program. The group also proposes to increase funding for public transit, farmer-led watershed groups and state programs that support local food systems.

Barnes said the state’s farming community often gets a “bad rap” regarding environmental impacts. People have raised concerns over the impact of farms on clean drinking water in recent years as studies have found evidence of contamination from agricultural sources.

He noted agriculture, which contributed $104.8 billion to the state’s economy in 2017, has also faced challenges due to climate change impacts, which range from flooding to changing growing seasons.

“If we are truly thinking about resilience in the next generation, we’ll make sure that we invite our ag operations to be a part of this conversation to be a part of the solution,” said Barnes.

The recommendations also call for statewide plans to make communities resilient to climate risks and flooding, as well as a statewide electric transportation plan. They also suggest updating rules to reflect the use of rainfall projection models, which could be used to build resilient infrastructure and pinpoint at-risk areas.

Wisconsin is projected to warm as much as 4 to 8 degrees Fahrenheit by mid-century, according to the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts. The increase in warming and precipitation is expected to drive more frequent, intense storms. 

In the last two decades, there have been 27 billion-dollar disasters that affected Wisconsin and caused around $100 billion in impacts, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  Northern Wisconsin witnessed three storms in the last decade that were only projected to occur once in a lifetime, including the 2016 flood that left much of the Bad River reservation underwater.  

Bad River tribal member Dylan Jennings, who also served on the task force, said the tribe has faced many threats from climate change. 

All of our tribal communities are seeing with the decrease in populations of walleye or minoomin, wild rice, and a lot of those (are) really essentially based in climatic change,” said Jennings. “And, so, we’re very hopeful that some of these recommendations can start helping our tribal nations to develop mitigation strategies, adaptation strategies, and also put funding towards these types of actions.”

The report also suggests the state could lead by example through an aggressive goal of 100 percent clean energy for state operations in the next five years and set a target for utilities to cut carbon emissions at least 60 percent by 2030. Rob Palmberg, a task force member and executive for Dairyland Power, feels it’s an attainable goal. The electric cooperative adopted an internal goal this year to reduce carbon emissions by 50 percent in the next decade.

“It’s a good goal to put in place, and it’s certainly directional to what we as an organization have been heading down for a number of years,” said Palmberg. 

Dairyland Power announced earlier this year that it’s retiring its Genoa coal plant in 2021. At the same time, the electric cooperative received approval from state regulators to build a $700 million natural gas facility in Superior with Minnesota Power. The project is facing legal challenges in both states.

Palmberg said they see natural gas as a “bridge fuel” to renewable energy, but environmental groups have opposed new power generation that includes fossil fuel emissions.  The task force said some proposals included in the report like avoiding new fossil fuel infrastructure were among items that warranted more discussion outside of the group’s work.

Many of Wisconsin’s large investor-owned utilities have already set goals to produce net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 in line with Evers’ goal to reach carbon-free electricity by that date. 

Brendan Conway, a spokesperson for WEC Energy Group, said in a statement Tuesday that the report reflects a commitment from a diverse group to work toward a “bright, sustainable future.” The company’s subsidiary We Energies was among utilities who were represented on the task force.

“As the largest investor in renewable energy in the state, we look forward to continuing our work with Gov. Evers, state legislators, state agencies, environmental groups and customers,” wrote Conway.

The power sector accounted for 33 percent of Wisconsin’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2017, according to figures from the Wisconsin Deaprtment of Natural Resources. Transportation and electricity combined make up 57 percent of the state’s overall emissions.

The report also details recommendations for select agencies to track those emissions along with electricity use and revise energy efficiency goals to increase funding for the state’s Focus on Energy program. 

Groups like Clean Wisconsin are supportive of such efforts that encourage ratepayers to save more money on their utility bills, according to Amber Meyer Smith, task force member and the group’s vice president of programs and government relations. Some task force members acknowledged that not all recommendations received support, but they underscored that their work does not represent the end of conversations around climate change.

Meyer Smith said the task force recommendations represent a broad consensus among a variety of stakeholders.

“I think it would be great if we did all of them, but I think even just making progress will be a huge difference for Wisconsin, and for our role in fighting climate change,” said Meyer Smith.

The task force proposed a number of policy recommendations that include mandating racial disparity impact studies for development projects, passing legislation to update state energy codes for buildings and revisit a bill introduced by Democrats to study creating a green bank to finance renewable energy projects.

The group’s proposals could meet opposition from the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature, especially recommendations that seek to reverse fees or policy items approved by GOP lawmakers under former Gov. Scott Walker. Those items would include the removal of additional fees on hybrid and electric vehicles, allowing local governments to ban plastic bags, and restoring a revenue limit exemption for energy efficiency projects in schools.

Task force member Rep. Mike Kuglitsch, R-New Berlin, did not respond to a request for comment. Representatives for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and incoming Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu also did not return requests for comment Tuesday.

The report identified nine recommendations that it said may warrant further discussion outside of the task force, including controversial proposals to avoid new fossil fuel infrastructure and state divestment of fossil fuel interests.  Other items included within the report:

  • Revisiting legislation to require regulators to consider the social cost of carbon in new power generation projects
  • Climate/environmental impact analysis on transportation projects
  • Incentives to explore soil carbon storage and cover crops
  • Providing money for a statewide grazing program
  • Restoring wetlands to solve runoff and flooding
  • Creating a “Green Energy Advisory Council” tasked with creating a place for training programs
  • Creating an advisory committee to facilitate a just transition for displaced workers
  • Urban and rural tree planting campaigns
  • Increased funding to PSC Office of Energy Innovation to help communities develop green energy infrastructure or microgrids
  • Increased funding for the Transportation Alternatives Program
  • Providing funding for bike programs
  • Increased funding for carbon storage programs
  • Providing funding to support economic development in Agricultural Enterprise Areas
  • Funding for research of statewide rainfall projections
  • More funding for existing flood resilience programs
  • Increased funding for state’s Farm-to-School and Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin programs; creating and funding the Governor’s Farm-to-Fork proposal
  • Increased funding for private landowner assistance through the Wisconsin Forest Landowner Grant Program (WFLGP) to encourage more tree planting
  • Securing funding to buy and reforest open lands
  • Creating first state forest with primary goal of carbon storage
  • Securing funding to acquire conservation easements and buy lands
  • Improve the tribal consultation process
  • Implement anti-racism education

Wisconsin Public Radio, © Copyright 2020, Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System and Wisconsin Educational Communications Board.

Minnesota grants will prioritize projects that pair EV charging with solar panels

Energy News Network | Frank Jossi The next group of electric vehicle charging station grants from Minnesota’s Volkswagen emissions-cheating settlement will prioritize projects that incorporate solar panels or other sources of local clean energy. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has already awarded grants from the settlement to install nearly 50 Level 2 and fast-charging stations on major state highways. For the next round, the agency will spend $170,000 on 22 Level 2 charging stations. This time, the criteria for judging applications will reward developers who add solar panels or source renewable power from another local source. […] Synchronizing solar and vehicle charging by using smart chargers works best at workplaces, where cars often stay parked for several hours during the day. […] But the solar pairing does not work as well when a driver pulls in for a charge while shopping at a grocery store or grabbing a cup of coffee, he said. Instead, EV-solar’s advantage comes when cars will be stationary for long periods, such as workplaces, downtown ramps or park-and-ride lots, Ross said. A solar array above a parking stall can fully charge a car on a sunny day, he said. A larger-scale project with more than one array above a parking stall makes more sense, allowing multiple cars to charge at once.

Sea level rise could flood thousands of Miami’s affordable housing spots, research shows

Miami Herald | Alex Harris and Yadira Lopez New research shows that Miami’s affordable housing — already in short supply — is at risk of flooding from sea level rise in the coming decades. The University of Miami found that more than half of all affordable housing in Miami-Dade county lies below Miami’s average elevation of seven feet above sea level. […] On Tuesday, UM debuted a new tool, funded by $500,000 in grants from JPMorgan Chase, to help community groups and politicians figure out how to keep affordable housing dry. It shows where all of Miami-Dade affordable housing (defined for this effort as paid for or subsidized by the government) is on a map, then layers on the expected flooding from sea level rise later in the century. […] When it comes to federally subsidized housing, the national picture is grimmer in places like New Jersey and Massachusetts, where coastal property isn’t as expensive as Florida. In the Sunshine State, the skyrocketing price of coastal real estate (and racist redlining policies) pushed more of that category of affordable housing options inland. But as UM’s new map points out, the risk of flooding to affordable housing doesn’t stop at the coast. Sections along the Miami River are lined with affordable housing in the form of dense apartment buildings, and an overflow, perhaps driven by hurricane storm surge, could flood soak tens of thousands of residents. Robin Bachin, assistant provost for civic and community engagement at UM, said the hope is that researchers and elected officials can use the information shown by the tool to figure out which solutions will protect the most people, like choosing to build more affordable housing in higher elevation spots.

Flood mitigation projects help create jobs — report

E&E News | Daniel Cusick Floods destroy local economies. Flood resilience projects can help revive them. New research from Johns Hopkins University and the American Flood Coalition shows that robust public spending on flood mitigation creates tens of thousands of new jobs that could help the U.S. economy recover from one of its worst downturns in history. Yet federal investment in flood resilience has lagged, forcing at-risk municipalities to shift tax dollars away from daily public services, placing additional stress on local businesses and residents. By contrast, public investment in risk reduction can yield large employment gains at the local level while simultaneously boosting property values, driving down flood insurance premiums and decreasing the number of lost workdays, researchers found. “Given these findings, we estimate that 10 billion dollars invested [in flood resilience] could be associated with up to 400,000 new jobs across the country,” according to the report by the Johns Hopkins 21st Century Cities Initiative. “The projects can also bring medium- and long-term improvements in neighborhood quality of life, leading to access to green amenities, improved health outcomes, and increased resilience to future floods,” it said. That kind of stimulus could help recoup some of the millions of U.S. jobs lost during the COVID-19 pandemic. It also could help safeguard communities from future disasters. […] The research could have resonance for the incoming Biden-Harris administration. President-elect Joe Biden has said he would seek a multibillion-dollar infrastructure program to help communities “build back better” after disasters.The findings are based on an analysis of 15 years of Federal Emergency Management Agency data on flood-related infrastructure spending and how those investments stimulated local economies and improved quality of life for residents. Researchers examined both green infrastructure projects such as shoreline stabilization and wetlands restoration, as well as engineered approaches that include home elevations, sea walls, water diversions and floodproofing.

How the World’s Biggest Environmental Group Became a Dealer of Meaningless Offsets

At first glance, big corporations appear to be protecting great swaths of the nation’s forests in the fight against climate change. Some of the world’s biggest companies have spent millions to preserve forestland in states like Pennsylvania and New York in exchange for carbon offset credits, Bloomberg reports. There’s just one problem: Those forests weren’t being threatened in the first place. (Bloomberg)


December 09, 2020byCommon Dreams

New UN ‘Emissions Gap’ Report Emphasizes Necessity of Green Recovery From Covid-19 Pandemic

“We need profound shifts in how we live, travel, eat, and generate electricity: for ourselves, our societies, and economies.”byJessica Corbett, staff writer


A protestor wearing a face mask displays a placard reading 'Save The Earth' during the climate crisis protest in Seoul. (Photo: Simon Shin/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

A protestor wearing a face mask displays a placard reading ‘Save The Earth’ during the climate crisis protest in Seoul. (Photo: Simon Shin/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Underscoring the necessity of a green, just recovery from the ongoing coronavirus crisis, a United Nations report released Wednesday warns that despite a brief pandemic-related drop in planet-heating emissions, the world is still on track to blast past the Paris climate agreement target temperature threshold.

“It doesn’t make sense to use taxpayers’ money to ruin the planet.”
—U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres

The Emissions Gap Report 2020, the latest edition of an annual publication from the U.N. Environment Program (UNEP), says that while the world is still headed for a temperature rise beyond 3°C this century—notably higher than the Paris agreement’s aim to keep global heating to an increase well below 2°C in pursuit of 1.5°C—a green recovery could cut projected greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for the next decade by about 25%.

Given that such a recovery—demanded of governments by climate activists across the globe throughout the year—could also put the world close to a 2°C pathway, the new report and U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres are urging policymakers to improve national climate pledges before a 2021 summit and “use Covid-19 recovery as an opportunity to create more sustainable, resilient, and inclusive societies.”

Countries’ current Paris commitments, called nationally determined contributions (NDCs), are currently insufficient to meet the agreement’s targets, and though governments are set to share their updated climate plans by the end of the year, some delays are expected due to the pandemic.

While warning that 3°C of warming “would spell catastrophe,” Guterres emphasized in a video message Wednesday that “we have an opportunity.”

“A sustainable pandemic recovery that prioritizes climate action can protect human health, jobs, and economies, and limit global warming,” he said. “We are seeing a growing number of encouraging pledges for carbon neutrality. Our objective for 2021 is to build a global coalition for net-zero emissions. But we need to see these pledges turned into concrete action, backed with real action and investment, well in advance of the next climate change conference.”

World leaders plan to commence the Climate Ambition Summit 2020 on Saturday to mark the fifth anniversary of the Paris agreement. The event is framed by the U.N. as “the sprint to Glasgow,” referencing a summit scheduled to take place in the Scottish city in November 2021.

Guterres, in his video, directed the call to action particularly at rich countries—a message he reiterated in an interview with The Guardian. In terms of pursuing a green recovery, “it’s not the same in all countries, but globally it’s not happening,” he said. “If you look at the G20 countries, and they represent probably 80% of the global economy, you have the recovery money used in fossil fuel-related industries and activities [that is] 50% more than the recovery money invested in the green economy.”

“It doesn’t make sense to use taxpayers’ money to ruin the planet,” added the U.N. chief, who has repeatedly called for transitioning to renewable energy, ending subsidies for the fossil fuel industry, and embracing nature-based solutions to the climate crisis. “We are close to a point of no return. We need to make sure that we act before that point of no return.”

In a statement about the new report Wednesday, Inger Andersen, UNEP’s executive director, echoed Guterres’ call for bold, urgent action that seizes on the opportunity presented by the pandemic while also noting alarming projections and current conditions of the planet that were detailed in other recent U.N. publications.

“The year 2020 is on course to be one of the warmest on record, while wildfires, storms, and droughts continue to wreak havoc,” said Andersen. “However, UNEP’s Emissions Gap report shows that a green pandemic recovery can take a huge slice out of greenhouse gas emissions and help slow climate change. I urge governments to back a green recovery in the next stage of Covid-19 fiscal interventions and raise significantly their climate ambitions in 2021.”

The report provides an update on the projected impact of countries’ current climate pledges, and what could change if President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris rejoin the Paris agreement. The day after he lost the November election, President Donald Trump completed a long-promised withdrawal from the deal—which some climate scientists and activists have criticized for not being bold enough considering the anticipated consequences of the global temperature rising even 1.5°C.

Noting the mounting net-zero pledges from around the world, the report says that “to remain feasible and credible, it is imperative that these commitments are urgently translated into strong near-term policies and actions, and are reflected in the NDCs.”

“At the time of completing this report, 126 countries covering 51% of global GHG emissions have net-zero goals that are formally adopted, announced, or under consideration,” according to UNEP. “If the United States of America adopts a net-zero GHG target by 2050, as suggested in the Biden-Harris climate plan, the share would increase to 63%.”

Guterres praised Biden for recently appointing John Kerry, the former secretary of state who helped craft the Paris agreement, as his climate envoy, telling The Guardian that “this is a demonstration that there will be a very strong commitment of the U.S. in relation to climate action next year.”

“It is clear to me that the Paris agreement would not have been possible without the U.S. engagement and leadership,” he added, “and it’s clear to me that there is no chance to have a global net-zero coalition that is effective without the engagement and leadership of the U.S.”Our work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. Feel free to republish and share widely.