Madeleine Para: Congress must not waste this opportunity to fight climate change | columnist

When President Biden declared last year that the United States would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by the end of the decade, confidence was high that legislation to achieve that goal would be enacted by the end of 2021. That didn’t happen, and time is now running out of action packages. to accelerate the transition to clean energy and reduce heat-trapping emissions that cause climate change.

Achieving the president’s goal will keep the US on a zero-emissions path by 2050. If the rest of the world can achieve the same target, humanity has a chance to contain global warming to 1.5 Celsius. Keeping below that threshold, scientists say, will allow us to manage and adapt to the changes in our climate that are taking place.

Already, climate change is testing the limits of what humans can withstand. Recent heat waves in India and Pakistan claimed dozens of lives and also led to the shocking sight of birds falling from the sky from dehydration. In Texas, a record-breaking heatwave pushed temperatures to 116 degrees, and in New Mexico, high temperatures, winds and dry conditions have kicked off the start of the fire season.

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To preserve a livable world, emissions must drop to net zero by mid-century. To do so, we must drastically reduce — and ultimately stop — the burning of coal, oil and gas.

Making this transition requires major policy and investment at the national level. With great momentum in this Congress to enact such a bill, we can’t let this moment pass without making big policies across the finish line.

Last fall, the US House of Representatives passed the Build Back Better Act, which includes spending $555 billion over a 10-year period to facilitate the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. While in the Senate, serious consideration was given to including the carbon price as a Build Back Better version of the upper house would co-exist. Since then, support for carbon pricing has continued to grow, with support from the American Petroleum Institute and the Business Roundtable. A study from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget found that adding modest carbon costs to Build Back Better provisions would dramatically increase the chances of meeting the 50% reduction in the 2030 goal.

Unfortunately, Build Back Better, which was on track to pass budget reconciliation in the Senate, was postponed due to objections from Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV). Manchin, however, has shown a willingness to negotiate a reconciliation bill containing climate provisions. He has also opened bipartisan talks on climate and energy aimed at getting the bill passed through a regular order.

But the clock is ticking on the time remaining to pass effective climate legislation, with most observers saying the bill should happen before the August congressional recess. At the very least, Congress should enact the clean energy incentives contained in the Rebuilding Better Act passed by the House of Representatives.

Better yet, incorporate a carbon pricing mechanism that provides market-based incentives to bring clean energy technologies to scale quickly. This tool should appeal to deficit hawks who are concerned about inflation, as it doesn’t require federal funding and will actually raise revenues to fund other climate provisions.

Done right, a carbon pricing policy with “carbon cashback” provisions will put money in the pockets of low- and middle-income Americans at a time when higher energy costs squeeze household budgets.

With a carbon price, the United States can also impose a carbon border adjustment, a tax on certain imports from countries that are not doing their fair share of reducing carbon emissions. This will maintain a level playing field for American businesses and motivate other countries to increase their climate ambitions. Europe plans to enforce such border adjustments, and unless the US prices carbon, American companies will find themselves at a competitive disadvantage.

Now is the time for bold action on climate change. Congress must pass legislation that supports President Biden’s pledge to reduce US emissions and restore American leadership in the challenge of preserving a livable world.

Madeleine Para is executive director for the Citizens Climate Lobby, a nonpartisan organization that works to enact climate solutions.

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