‘Genocidal Negligence’: Tepid Democratic Climate Action Plan Criticized As Woefully Inadequate To The Threat

“It is simply not an adequate attempt to deal with the crisis we actually face.”

By Jessica Corbett
Common Dreams (6/30/20)

“This is not an emergency response.”

That is how Laura Berry, director of research and policy at the Climate Mobilization (TCM), responded to reporting on a congressional “action plan” for the planetary emergency from the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, which the panel and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) unveiled Tuesday.

The climate roadmap features hundreds of policy proposals under 12 key pillars. Specifically, the 538-page plan calls for selling only zero-emissions vehicles by 2035, net-zero greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector by 2040, and net-zero U.S. emissions economy-wide by no later than 2050.

As part of the efforts to meet those goals, the committee calls on Congress to “ensure new jobs in the clean energy economy are high-quality, good-paying jobs by strengthening workers’ rights to organize a union and ensuring federal spending only supports projects that meet high-road labor standards.”

The plan, as the Washington Post reported, “also backs placing a price on carbon emissions, imposing tougher methane limits, and boosting energy efficiency in buildings. Solar and wind tax credits would be extended through 2025, and the tax credit for electric vehicles would be expanded.”

“…the select committee’s plan for a leisurely, three-decade transition to a cleaner economy underscores the establishment’s continuing refusal to address this existential crisis with the scale, speed, and intensity required to ensure a future for our next generation.”

Despite longstanding cost and safety concerns related to nuclear power, Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), the committee’s chair, told the Post that “where we landed is: if we’re going to get to our net-zero goal as soon as possible, then nuclear needs to remain part of the equation.”

The roadmap acknowledges the disproportionate impact of the climate crisis on people of color and “environmental justice communities.” Castor told the New York Times that “there is an awakening across the country to systemic racism, and this is a report that at its center, at its core, focuses on those communities.”

Reactions to the plan ranged from enthusiasm and cautious optimism to sharp criticism that the roadmap was too little, too late. As writer Neal Romanek put it in a Monday night tweet: “Net zero by 2050 means ‘we’ll let our kids figure it out’. It’s genocidal negligence.”

Berry of TCM also blasted the plan’s emissions goals, citing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report on 1.5ºC, which warned in October 2018 of the need for “rapid, far-reaching, and unprecedented” changes to life as we know it.

“The Select Committee on the Climate Crisis had the opportunity to put forth a comprehensive plan to protect Americans from climate devastation, but the solutions proposed to fail to meet the challenge of the existential planetary crisis we face,” Berry said. “Collectively, the proposals in the plan would only cut greenhouse gas emissions by 37% by 2030, and 88% by 2050, and are wholly inadequate to prevent the risk of catastrophic climate disruption.”

Inexplicable and inexcusable fail

Food & Water Action (FWA) policy director Mitch Jones agreed in a statement Tuesday, warning that “the paltry ‘net-zero’ goals put forth by the committee would allow for continued use of dirty fossil fuels, and would rely on achieving emissions reductions from unproven, industry-backed ‘carbon capture’ technologies and market-based accounting tricks.”

“This climate proposal inexplicably and inexcusably fails to call for a halt to the extraction of fossil fuels. It is simply not an adequate attempt to deal with the crisis we actually face,” Jones said. “We must take the necessary first steps: a ban on fracking, a ban on exports and imports of fossil fuels, and an immediate halt to new fossil fuel infrastructure buildout. Anything that does not seek to immediately curtail and then eliminate the production of fossil fuels is weak sauce.”

Jones detailed some specific concerns with elements of the roadmap as well as activists’ demands:

“It is alarming to see carbon taxes included as part of the Democrats’ proposed solution. This is no time or place for regressive policies that have already proven to be colossal failures. Fossil fuel corporations embrace these phony pricing schemes because they know that these policies only entrench their existence.

“The plan also endorses the use of biogas and factory farm manure digesters, which prop up unsustainable and dangerous agricultural practices that are contributing to the climate crisis. A bold, sensible climate plan would seek to end our use of fossil fuels and place a moratorium on polluting factory farms; this plan would do the opposite.

“A bold climate plan must call for a ban on fracking and all new fossil fuel infrastructure, and a swift and just transition to 100% clean, renewable energy across all sectors of the economy. We have no time left to prop up false solutions that cannot meet the demands of the current crisis. The Democrats must do better—much better.”

Friends of the Earth also said the plan does not go far enough, tweeting: “We cannot continue our dependence on fossil fuels.”

Others were more welcoming of the plan while still recognizing its shortcomings—including Lauren Maunus, legislative manager of the youth-led Sunrise Movement.

“In the past two years since launching the Green New Deal, young people have brought the clarity and urgency of the crisis to Congress, and we are happy to see the select committee’s action plan reflect much of the vision for a Green New Deal,” Maunus said in a statement Tuesday.

“That’s a real sign that young people are changing politics in this country and the establishment is scrambling to catch up,” she continued. “This plan is more ambitious than anything we have seen from Democratic leadership so far, but it still needs to go further to match the full scale of the crisis.” …

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