By Hannah Lynn, Pittsburgh City Paper
On Wed., Jan. 8, a group of U.S. Representatives from the House Energy and Commerce Committee, including local Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Forest Hills), released details about the CLEAN Future Act, a plan to tackle the causes and effects of climate change.
The plan is similar to the Green New Deal, a plan supported by presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, and spearheaded by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y). But CLEAN, which Doyle supports, has a few key differences, most obviously the proposed timeline for implementing the act, which is less drastic and more incremental.
The CLEAN Act states the goal of achieving a “100 percent clean energy economy” by 2050, while the Green New Deal sets its goals for 2030. In March 2019, scientists from the United Nations warned that there are only 11 years left to prevent the earth from warming past the point of irreversible damage. The U.N. called for immediate and urgent action to reduce carbon emissions, among other changes.
Interestingly, the CLEAN Act does cite a study by the U.N., but one that warns of probable temperature increases of 3.9 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, “more than double the limit needed to avoid the worst effects of climate change,” but it does not specify that “the limit” is the one specified in the U.N. report that warns of the 11-year mark.
Costs estimates for the CLEAN Act are not yet available, while the Ocasio-Cortez said in June 2019 that the GND would invest at least $10 trillion over several years.
But what exactly are the differences between the CLEAN Act and the Green New Deal, and why are certain candidates supporting one over the other? City Paper broke it down by category.
The CLEAN Future Act promises to transition to “low-to zero-carbon vehicles,” build infrastructure for cleaner transportation and new emission standards for vehicles set by the EPA by 2050.
The Green New Deal has a similar goal of reducing transportation emissions “as much as is technologically feasible,” creating “affordable, and accessible public transit” by 2030.
Neither bill addresses any zoning reform that would allow for more dense housing to be built near high-quality transit, which would help combat sprawl that leads to increased driving.
The CLEAN Act has a goal of establishing a “nationwide Clean Electricity Standard (CES) requiring all retail electricity suppliers to obtain 100 percent of their energy from clean energy sources by 2050.” The CLEAN Act defines “clean energy” as a facility generating electricity with extremely low carbon emissions. Natural-gas power plants are not considered “clean energy.”
The CLEAN Act states that it would mandate electricity suppliers to start increasing their supply of clean electricity options for customers beginning in 2022, until it reaches 100% clean energy in 2050.
The GND has a goal of meeting 100% clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy, like wind and solar farms, by 2030 by “dramatically expanding and upgrading renewable power sources” and building “smart” power grids that offer affordable and clean electricity.
The CLEAN Act creates a “Buy Clean Program” that would “steadily reduce emissions from construction materials and products used in projects that receive federal funding” by setting performance targets on construction and infrastructure projects. The author’s of the CLEAN Act believe this will “stimulate private investment in decarbonizing industrial sources.”
The GND promises to grow clean manufacturing and reduce pollution and emissions from manufacturing and industry “as much as is technologically feasible.” Ocasio-Cortez said in June 2019 that the GND would invest at least $10 trillion over several years. It also ensures collaborating with farmers and ranchers to reduce emissions.
The day after the CLEAN Act was announced, Mayor Bill Peduto criticized the GND on Twitter, saying that “It may be good for Brooklyn, Boulder, Burbank & Burlington,” but that “It does not put people first. It leaves them out of the economic equation in transition to renewable.”
The criticism that the GND is created by the “East Coast elite” (like the cities Peduto cities) is misreading of the bill itself, which promises to create “high-quality union jobs that pay prevailing wages, hires local workers, offers training and advancement opportunities, and guarantees wage and benefit parity for workers affected by the transition.”
The CLEAN Act has plans for a workforce development program for in the energy sector, and ensures that any “project funded to construct, alter, maintain, or repair a public building or public work must use iron, steel, and manufactured goods produced in the United States.”
Both the CLEAN Act and the GND promise to actively consider “frontline communities,” which the GND defines as “indigenous peoples, communities of color, migrant communities, deindustrialized communities, depopulated rural communities, the poor, low-income workers, women, the elderly, the unhoused, people with disabilities, and youth.”
In its implementation and execution, the GND promises to use processes “that are inclusive of and led by frontline and vulnerable communities and workers to plan, implement, and administer the Green New Deal mobilization at the local level.” It also promises to obtain consent from indigenous communities about decisions that affect their land, and honor their sovereignty.
The CLEAN Act would “require that states’ individual climate plans and state implementation plans for other hazardous air pollutants proactively consider the needs of frontline and environmental justice communities.” It would also ensure safe disposal of hazardous waste and address exposures to “legacy toxic chemicals.”