Understanding Why Policy Change is So Important
“Climate change mitigation policies have made important contributions to reallocating innovation, electricity generation, and employment toward low-carbon activities, broadly without harming overall activity.” —IMF
The main holdup is political will. From “Rewiring America:”
“A 100% adoption rate is only achieved by mandate. The invisible hand of markets is definitely not fast enough; it typically takes decades for a new technology to become dominant by market forces alone as it slowly increases its market share each year. A carbon tax isn’t fast enough, either. Market subsidies are not fast enough.”
While the fossil fuel industry is doing its best to keep politicians in their pockets, every American needs to take up the torch and take their power of government and give it back to the people.
The biggest instrument out there right now to bring together global efforts towards mitigating climate change is the Paris Agreement, or the COP21 agreement.
“In a nationally representative survey conducted after the election, we found that seven in ten registered voters (69%) say the U.S. should participate in the COP21 agreement, compared with only 13% who say the U.S. should not.” —Yale Climate Communications
Half of Trump supporters even support it. Why? Because almost everyone agrees on clean energy and conservation. These are areas our country can cooperate on and bring people together to formulate creative solutions. Without much fanfare in August 2020, President Trump signed the Great American Outdoors Act to permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation fund and improve the state of our national parks. In December 2020, a bipartisan COVID-19 relief bill passed that included $35 billion for investments in climate and renewable energy.
On his first day in office, President Biden signed several climate- and energy-related executive orders including the following:
- Empowering American workers and businesses to lead a clean energy revolution that achieves a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035 and puts the United States on an irreversible path to a net-zero economy by 2050
- Federal agencies should buy only carbon-free electricity and zero-pollution vehicles
- Commits to the goal of conserving at least 30 percent of our lands and oceans by 2030
- Calls for the establishment of a Civilian Climate Corps Initiative to put a new generation of Americans to work
- Creates a government-wide Justice40 Initiative with the goal of delivering 40 percent of the overall benefits of relevant federal investments to disadvantaged communities
Clean legislation works. The Clean Air Act, which started in 1970, is an example of the effectiveness of legislation. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists:
“This legislation has a 40-year track record of cutting dangerous pollution and has prevented more than 400,000 premature deaths and hundreds of millions of cases of respiratory and cardiovascular disease.”
This is the kind of legislation that fossil fuel companies are trying to stop, of course. It also spurs innovation according to the article. The Clean Power Plan, issued under the Clean Air Act in 2015, regulates emissions from power plants. According to the National Resource Defense Council:
“Economists believe that in 2030, the Clean Power Plan could save the country $20 billion in climate-related costs and deliver $14 billion to $34 billion in health benefits. The shift to energy efficiency and cleaner power will also save the average American family $85 on its electricity bills in 2030.”
The benefits far outweigh the costs, and many lives are saved. According to the EPA:
The Clean Power Plan has public health and climate benefits worth an estimated $34 billion to $54 billion per year in 2030, far outweighing the costs of $8.4 billion. Reducing exposure to particle pollution and ozone in 2030 will avoid a projected
- 1,500 to 3,600 premature deaths
- 90,000 asthma attacks in children
- Up to 1,700 heart attacks
- 1,700 hospital admissions
- 300,000 missed school and work days
Americans also overwhelmingly support clean energy according to polls and studies. Of course, there’s no guarantee of what will happen in the future, but it makes sense to pursue the options that have the best likely outcomes for everyone in our society. Since clean energy and conservation are topics we can talk about, let’s sit down and talk with the other side about this.
“It’s much easier to find common ground and to work together on some of these political issues than it is to persuade someone and change their fundamental belief system and values,” Gustafson said. “It is much more effective to find ways to show people that we are all on the same team and we can all move toward a common goal together. And renewable energy is a great example of an opportunity to do that.” Yale Climate Communications
Global organizations are also calling for policy intervention to solve some of the problems we’ve been talking about. The World Economic Forum talked about the opportunity for a “great reset” back in July 2020. The three components of needed policy change:
- The first would steer the market toward fairer outcomes. To this end, governments should improve coordination (for example, in tax, regulatory, and fiscal policy), upgrade trade arrangements, and create the conditions for a “stakeholder economy.” At a time of diminishing tax bases and soaring public debt, governments have a powerful incentive to pursue such action. Moreover, governments should implement long-overdue reforms that promote more equitable outcomes.
- The second component of a Great Reset agenda would ensure that investments advance shared goals, such as equality and sustainability. Here, the large-scale spending programs that many governments are implementing represent a major opportunity for progress. Rather than using these funds, as well as investments from private entities and pension funds, to fill cracks in the old system, we should use them to create a new one that is more resilient, equitable, and sustainable in the long run. This means, for example, building “green” urban infrastructure and creating incentives for industries to improve their track record on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) metrics.
- The third and final priority of a Great Reset agenda is to harness the innovations of the Fourth Industrial Revolution to support the public good, especially by addressing health and social challenges. During the COVID-19 crisis, companies, universities, and others have joined forces to develop diagnostics, therapeutics, and possible vaccines; establish testing centers; create mechanisms for tracing infections; and deliver telemedicine. Imagine what could be possible if similar concerted efforts were made in every sector. —WEF
Many organizations exist to muddy the waters on these facts of agreement, and a lot of time and money is wasted to ensure that we don’t make progress on clean energy and conservation efforts that will reduce profits of some organizations. If you need help determining how to test the veracity or truth of the information you’re consuming, read “Learn How to be True.” Additionally, there are courses listed in the Action Sheet: Individual Target Actions later in this document that provide links to related courses.
In the US and also in Illinois, it’s up to legislators to keep the positive momentum going. According to Clean Jobs Midwest:
As lawmakers look to reinvigorate our economy and get America back to work, they must consider how they can support clean energy workers and provide stimulus funding that can drive job creation and economic growth for years to come.
Illinois can also do its part to help save and create jobs by adopting state policies that support renewables, energy efficiency, and electric vehicles. The Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA) was signed into law in 2016 by former Gov. Bruce Rauner. FEJA put Illinois on track to acquire a quarter of its electricity from renewable energy by 2025 while also strengthening the state’s energy efficiency standards. In the years after FEJA was enacted and prior to the COVID-19 crisis, Illinois experienced sustained job growth in the major clean energy sectors of wind, solar, and energy efficiency. Illinois added more clean energy jobs than any Midwestern state in 2019. Looking ahead, Illinois must build on the success of FEJA and the clean energy economy by continuing to advance strong clean energy legislation at the state and local levels. —Clean Jobs Midwest
It’s the responsibility of every American citizen to make sure that the people who represent them at all levels of government know that they want a transition to clean energy and jobs, urgently. If legislators are still propping up fossil fuels and receiving fossil fuel money, they must be voted out, or we’re just going to keep ending up with more and bigger of the same problems. Politicians must be required to work for all the people they represent, not just big corporations with lots of money who want to bend the rules, but rather including the poor, people of color, women, Indigenous people, fossil fuel workers, local communities, future generations and small businesses.