The Impact of a Carbon Emissions Reduction Pledge - America's Future

April 27, 2021

The Impact of a Carbon Emissions Reduction Pledge

By: Kelvey Vander Hart

Forty world leaders attended President Joe Biden’s two-day climate summit coinciding with Earth Day 2021. Biden used this summit as his platform to announce an ambitious emissions reduction pledge. But how is this pledge going to impact America?

What are the target numbers found in this emissions reduction pledge? 

The newly announced emissions target calls upon the U.S. to slash carbon emissions 50 to 52 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels. While that was the key focus found in Biden’s announcement, it was not the only number specified. Hidden much deeper within the fact sheet released by the White House is the electricity target. The Administration wants the U.S.  to be 100 percent reliant upon “carbon pollution-free electricity” by 2035. 

Do these targets have teeth?

Easy answer? Yes and no. The scope of these targets is so broad that it is hard to point to one specific Congressional action and call it an enforcement item. However, there are several key things that Congress and the Administration are working on that could likely be labeled enforcement of these targets. 

Upon announcement, the Biden Administration itself suggested a few items that make progress towards their aims. Items cited included; rejoining the Paris Agreement and organizing initiatives under the new National Climate Task Force. The White House also referenced submitting this target to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as a nationally determined contribution. While these are all independently noteworthy items, a common criticism, particularly in the case of the Paris Agreement, is that they are frivolous. 

While the executive branch continues to tout actions such as those described above, Congress will have much more of an impact on what happens. Climate change and environmentalism have been legislative buzzwords on Capitol Hill long before Biden was elected. But the past few weeks have shown a specific focus on two legislative proposals that each would offer teeth to Biden’s targets; the American Jobs Plan backed by Biden and the Republican-backed Energy Innovation Agenda.

How would these legislative proposals reach the targets and impact the nation? 

The American Jobs Plan is a massive legislative proposal encompassing both climate and infrastructure. The White House Plan comes with $2 trillion price tag that they plan to pay for through aggressive tax hikes. They claim the plan will, “invest in America in a way we have not invested since we built the interstate highways and won the Space Race”. This aggression legislation includes investments in breakthrough environmental technologies, the electrical grid, and sustainable infrastructure. But, as the American Conservation Coalition explains, much of what the plan contains are non-starters for fiscally-minded voters

President Biden is right that revitalizing America’s infrastructure presents an opportunity to put Americans back to work and tackle climate change. Grid modernization, electric vehicle infrastructure, nature-based infrastructure, and developing carbon capture and battery storage technologies are worthy investments. Yet, his American Jobs Plan is bloated, fails to streamline burdensome regulations, and is too focused on public sector spending. Nearly one-fourth of the package’s total price tag goes towards the ‘care economy’, instead of real infrastructure projects.

In contrast to the American Jobs Plan, the Energy Innovation Agenda rolled out by Congressional Republicans is a package of over 30 bills focused on three categories: environmental innovation, energy infrastructure, and natural solutions and conservation. Many of the bills are bipartisan and focus on topics such as streamlining regulations that slow down clean energy projects, the deployment of nuclear energy, utilizing trees for natural carbon capture, and more. 

When discussing this plan, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R – CA) stated

Our members have been working for years to develop thoughtful, targeted legislation to reduce global emissions by ensuring we can develop and build new technology at home that is clean, affordable, and exportable. Unlike Democrat plans, ours don’t kill American jobs or make American energy more expensive through increased taxes and regulation. Instead, House Republicans are focused on solutions that make American energy cleaner, more affordable, and more accessible to reduce emissions around the world.

The Final Takeaway

Reducing our carbon emissions and turning toward renewable energy sources are both good things. However, the devil lies in the details. In seeking to accomplish these goals, America must lead through innovation, market-based solutions, and fiscally responsible proposals.