Lawmakers unveil ambitious new plan to combat climate crisis

Jan 8, 2020
Press Release
Legislation to include Rep. Diana DeGette’s proposal to create new federal clean-energy standard


WASHINGTON, D.C. – A group of federal lawmakers today unveiled the framework of an ambitious new plan to help combat the global climate crisis by cutting the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050.

The newly-released proposal, which is being backed by several senior leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, seeks to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions from several sectors of the U.S. economy.

Included in the plan is a key provision based largely on legislation that U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) unveiled last month to cut carbon emissions coming from our nation’s power sector in half by 2030 and to net-zero by 2050.

Specifically, DeGette’s plan would create a new federal clean-energy standard that would require all U.S. electricity producers to take steps to reduce their carbon emissions. Under the terms of her proposal, U.S. electricity producers would be awarded so-called “clean energy credits” for every megawatt-hour of electricity they produce without emitting carbon into the atmosphere. Credits would also be awarded for the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere – for example, by capturing and permanently storing it in the earth.

“If we are going to avoid the worst effects of our climate crisis, we must take steps now to cut our carbon emissions,” DeGette said. “By creating a new federal clean-energy standard to cut emissions from our nation’s power sector, we will help spur the innovation of new technologies needed to eliminate at least one-fourth of all greenhouse gases emitted in this county.”

According to the framework of the broader bill the committee released today, “a low-carbon electricity system will be key to reducing emissions in other segments of the economy, including the industrial, transportation, and buildings sectors.  Electrification of those other sectors has the potential to dramatically reduce emissions, but only if the electricity is sourced from a low-carbon power sector.”

By creating the nation’s first-ever federal clean-energy standard, DeGette’s proposal seeks to increase the deployment of existing clean-energy technologies and spur the innovation of new technologies that do not yet exist, but will ultimately be needed to completely eliminate carbon emissions from our nation’s power sector within the next 30 years.

According to a detailed summary of her proposal, which DeGette released last month, instituting a federal clean-energy standard will lead U.S. power producers to increase their use of existing clean-energy technologies – such as wind, solar, nuclear and hydro-electric dams – in the near term, as they work to develop the new technologies needed to eliminate their carbon emissions in the long term.

Nearly one-fourth of all carbon emissions in the U.S. come from the production of electricity. In order to avoid the worst effects of the climate crisis, the world’s top climate experts agree that steps must be taken now to dramatically reduce the amount of carbon that’s being emitted into the atmosphere.

With the backing of several key leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the newly unveiled legislation – known as the CLEAN Future Act – which includes DeGette’s clean-energy standard proposal, will likely become a top priority for the committee once it’s introduced later this month.  

A detailed summary of DeGette’s clean-energy standard plan can be found here.

The framework of the new CLEAN Future Act that was released today is available here.

And here’s a copy of the Energy and Commerce Committee’s release announcing the new plan:


January 8, 2020


Details Deep Decarbonization Strategies for Each Sector of the U.S. Economy within Committee’s Jurisdiction, and Novel Concepts for Achieving Nationwide Net-Zero Greenhouse Gas Pollution

Washington, D.C. – Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee Chairman Paul Tonko (D-NY) and Energy Subcommittee Chairman Bobby L. Rush (D-IL) today released the legislative framework of the draft Climate Leadership and Environmental Action for our Nation’s (CLEAN) Future Act – an ambitious new climate plan to ensure the United States achieves net-zero greenhouse gas pollution no later than 2050.

The CLEAN Future Act is a comprehensive proposal of sector-specific and economy-wide solutions to address the climate crisis.  Critically, the CLEAN Future Act formally adopts the goal of achieving of a 100 percent clean economy by 2050.  According to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, avoiding the most catastrophic outcomes of climate change requires cutting carbon pollution to net-zero by 2050.  The draft bill incorporates both proven and novel concepts, presenting a set of policy proposals that will put the U.S. on the path to a clean and prosperous economy.

“Record wildfires, flooding, heat waves and drought have spelled out a dire reality: the climate crisis is here, and we can no longer afford to address this crisis along the margins. Today we are providing the kind of serious federal leadership this moment requires,” said Pallone. “This plan represents our commitment to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas pollution. For the sake of the American people, the long-term sustainability of our economy, and public health, we must act boldly, and that is exactly what we intend to do.”

The framework is the result of the Committee’s ongoing work to seriously and meaningfully tackle the climate crisis.  The Committee held 15 hearings addressing the climate crisis, including seven focused on how best to facilitate deep decarbonization of various sectors of our economy.

“Meeting the climate crisis head-on is our only hope of avoiding grave and costly outcomes for our communities. Acting swiftly means we can still turn the looming climate threat into opportunity for economic growth and job creation as we build America’s clean energy and climate-resilient future,” said Tonko. “This legislation will be the top priority for my Subcommittee this year. I look forward to our work together with countless climate stakeholders as we continue to build this bold, consensus driven plan for America to, at long last, truly act on climate.”

Legislative text of the draft CLEAN Future Act will be released by the end of the month.  Hearings and stakeholder meetings will continue throughout the year.

“Combatting the climate crisis and creating clean energy solutions are indisputably connected. The framework we present today demonstrates to the world that — regardless of this Administration’s inaction — this Committee will act urgently to address this pressing issue with the entire U.S. economy in mind,” Rush said.  “As someone who represents a district whose constituents are disproportionately impacted by the effects of climate change, I look forward to continuing to work with communities, industries and stakeholders throughout the upcoming year to address this immediate threat.”

The Committee’s framework details the legislation’s proposals to date, which include taking ambitious new policies within the Committee’s jurisdiction, all aimed at reducing U.S. greenhouse gas pollution to net-zero by 2050.  The draft legislation includes the following key areas:

Power Sector: Guided by proposals from Reps. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) and Diana DeGette (D-CO) on Clean Electricity Standards (CES), the CLEAN Future Act proposes a nationwide CES requiring all retail electricity suppliers to obtain 100 percent clean energy by 2050.  The CES in the discussion draft text mandates that all retail electricity suppliers provide an increasing supply of clean energy to consumers starting in 2022, rising to 100 percent clean energy by 2050.  The draft legislation stipulates that suppliers must possess a sufficient quantity of “clean energy credits” at the end of each year, or may otherwise make an “alternative compliance payment.”  Suppliers may buy and trade clean energy credits from one another or purchase them via auction.  The mandate is technology-neutral, allowing electricity suppliers ample flexibility and freedom of choice.

Building Sector: The draft legislation aims to improve the efficiency of new and existing buildings, as well as the equipment and appliances that operate within them.  The Act establishes national energy savings targets for continued improvement of model building energy codes, leading to a requirement of zero-energy-ready buildings by 2030.  This section further provides assistance for states and Tribes to support adoption of updated model building energy codes and support full compliance.  The CLEAN Future Act also incorporates several additional measures to reduce building emissions.

Transportation Sector: The draft legislation reduces transportation emissions, the largest source of GHG emissions, by improving vehicle efficiency, accelerating the transition to low- to zero-carbon fuels and building the infrastructure needed for a clean transportation system.  The bill directs EPA to set new, increasingly stringent greenhouse gas emission standards for light-, medium-, and heavy-duty vehicles, including non-road modes of transportation.  It further requires year-over-year improvements to those standards – and that the level of the standards be set in accordance with the path to net-zero emissions by 2050.

Industrial Sector: The CLEAN Future Act establishes a Buy Clean Program that sets performance targets to steadily reduce emissions from construction materials and products used in projects that receive federal funding.  With the vast majority of U.S. construction projects funded by government dollars, this proposal would transform these carbon-intensive industries by ensuring that these projects only use the cleanest construction materials.  The program also strengthens the competitiveness of the U.S. manufacturing sector while reducing climate pollution by promoting the use of low-carbon materials and expanding the market for cleaner products.

National Climate Target for Federal Agencies: The CLEAN Future Act directs all federal agencies to use all existing authorities to put the country on a path toward net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.  This section of the bill was championed by Rep. Donald McEachin (D-VA).  It does not stipulate which energy sources or strategies qualify, instead taking a technology-inclusive approach to reaching net-zero emissions by mid-century.  To ensure federal agencies’ collective efforts remain on track, the draft legislation directs the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to evaluate each agency’s plans, make recommendations and report on progress each year.

State Climate Plans: The CLEAN Future Act empowers the states to complete the transition to a net-zero economy, based on the existing federalism model in the Clean Air Act.  The bill sets a national climate standard of net-zero greenhouse gas pollution in each state by 2050.  States are then granted flexibility to develop plans to meet the 2050 and interim standards based on their policy preferences, priorities and circumstances.  Each state must submit a climate plan to EPA, which then reviews and approves or disapproves each plan.  States may work independently or cooperatively as they develop their plans to meet the national climate standard.  To ensure that states have ample guidance and expertise at their disposal, the bill directs EPA to develop a set of model greenhouse gas control strategies, which states can choose to incorporate into their plans.

National Climate Bank: The CLEAN Future Act establishes a first-of-its-kind National Climate Bank to help states, cities, communities and companies in the transition to a clean economy.  The Bank, championed by Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI), will mobilize public and private investments to provide financing for low- and zero-emissions energy technologies, climate resiliency, building efficiency and electrification, industrial decarbonization, grid modernization, agriculture projects, and clean transportation.  The CLEAN Future Act requires that the Bank prioritize investments in communities that are disproportionately affected by the impacts of climate change, including frontline, rural, low-income and environmental justice communities.

Environmental Justice: The draft legislation requires that states’ individual climate plans and state implementation plans for other hazardous air pollutants proactively consider the needs of frontline and environmental justice communities.  The draft also includes grant programs to allow impacted communities to participate in the permitting and regulation of petrochemical facilities in their neighborhoods.  It further protects these groups by implementing strong new coal ash disposal requirements and repealing oil and gas production exemptions from landmark environmental laws.

The CLEAN Future Act also features a suite of complementary policies, including proposals to remove barriers to clean energy, reduce super pollutants like methane, and investments in grid modernization and energy efficiency programs.

The Committee is requesting feedback and recommendations from all stakeholders as it continues to expand and refine the CLEAN Future Act.  To that end, hearings and stakeholder meetings will continue throughout the coming year.  Potential 2020 hearing topics include adaptation and climate resilience, workforce and community transition, recycling and waste management, and international cooperation.  Feedback can be submitted to