Democrats’ climate plan promises net zero US emissions by 2050

Democratic lawmakers unveiled a climate action plan that would require the US to bring its net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by the year 2050, in a move that aims to make climate policy a core issue in the November elections.

The wide-ranging set of proposals released on Tuesday would also require power producers to achieve net zero emissions by 2040, US carmakers to produce only electric cars by 2035, and force oil and gas producers to phase out routine flaring, where drillers burn off the less valuable gas found alongside the oil, by 2030.

“Today we are here on the steps of the United States Capitol to take a bold step for climate action now with a congressional action plan solving the climate crisis,” said Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Speaker of the House of Representatives, as she launched the 500-plus page report from the chamber’s select committee on the climate crisis.

The plan sets the stage for the November congressional and presidential elections in which Democrats and Republicans will offer starkly contrasting views on the issues of energy and climate.

Fossil fuels remain central to the energy policy of President Donald Trump, who vowed in April to “never let the great US oil and gas industry down” and has used his time in office to roll back environmental laws hindering producers.

While the Democrats’ proposal stands no chance of passing the Republican-controlled Senate or being signed into law under the current administration, it provides a blueprint for the party should it manage to take control of both the White House and both chambers of Congress in the elections.

“Our plan honours our obligation to address the climate crisis and embraces our opportunity to solve that crisis as we build a new clean energy economy that creates millions of well-paying jobs with strong labour protections,” Mrs Pelosi said on Tuesday.

The House proposal mirrors a similar plan put forward by Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, who has already called for emissions to be slashed to net zero by 2050. Harold Hamm, the billionaire shale pioneer and Trump supporter, earlier this week dismissed Mr Biden’s plans as “not based in reality”.

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The plan is more moderate than the “Green New Deal” proposed last year by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democratic congresswoman from New York, and Ed Markey, a US senator from Massachusetts senator, which called for net zero emissions to be achieved within the next decade.

It is further evidence that the party is placing a bigger priority on climate initiatives that prioritise not just the environment but a broader rethink of the US economy and lingering socio-economic divisions — a strategy that a growing number of Americans appear to be in favour of, according to studies.

“Climate change is an existential threat,” said Joe Neguse, a Democratic congressman from Colorado. “We know that we have a very short runway for action, and the [Democrats’] report makes that very clear. It is getting shorter by the day and there are far too many in this town — the president, the senate — who are standing by, and watching as this crisis worsens by the day.”