Several States Pass 2050 Net-Zero Carbon Emission Laws While the US Federal Government Continues to Drag its Heels

Several States Pass 2050 Net-Zero Carbon Emission Laws While the US Federal Government Continues to Drag its Heels

Several American states recently strengthened their carbon emissions reductions targets. In August, Louisiana Governor, John Bel Edwards, signed an executive order establishing the Climate Initiatives Task Force; they are charged with reaching a goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 and a set of interim targets of reducing economy-wide emissions 26-28% by 2025 and 40-50% by 2035. The following month, Michigan Governor, Gretchen Whitmer, enacted a state-wide 2050 net-zero emissions target, including an interim goal of reducing emissions 28% from 1990 levels by 2025.

In late September, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Clean Economy Jobs and Innovation Act, a sweeping package including provisions for clean energy, energy efficiency, grid modernization, cybersecurity, and supply chain security, clean transportation, environmental justice, workforce development, and labor protections. In addition to mobilizing billions of dollars in funding for clean energy research and development and environmental justice, the bipartisan bill contains specific provisions for workforce training and development. Although a companion bill exists in the Senate, it is unlikely to pass, leaving the legislation ineffective in this Congressional session.

Climate Justice

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler claimed in September that the focus of the EPA under a potential second Trump term would focus on “revitalizing minority communities.” However, as the administration continues to roll back regulations protecting clean air, water, climate change, and other environmental protections—especially to the detriment of lower income communities and communities of Color—these words ring hollow.

Weather Events

The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season broke records, with 28 named storms – requiring the naming system to use the Greek alphabet after all names in the English alphabet were used. Twenty-five of the storms set records as the earliest for their respective letter, and 12 of the storms were hurricanes, putting 2020 just shy of the 2005 record of 15 hurricanes – although this year’s season isn’t over yet. The storms battered the Gulf Coast of the U.S., hitting Louisiana one after another before many communities had time to clean up the wreckage from the previous storm.


Paris Agreement

November 4, 2020 – the day after the U.S. Presidential Election – marks the day the U.S. officially leaves the Paris Agreement. The U.S. is the only country to officially withdraw from the agreement. Democratic Presidential candidate Joseph R. Biden, Jr. promised to “re-enter the Paris Agreement on day one” if elected. However, significant damage has already been done to U.S. credibility in the international climate realm. Additionally, the country will need to significantly ramp up its domestic climate ambition in order to meet the goals of the agreement.

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On October 26th, in a party-line vote, U.S. Senators confirmed far-right justice Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court, filling the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s seat. In a series of rushed, partisan meetings, Republican Senators rushed through the confirmation hearings ahead of the November 3 election. Despite the rushed hearings, Justice Barrett made her views on climate change apparent – considering it a “very contentious matter of public debate.” As a self-proclaimed traditionalist, Barrett believes laws must be held to their original meaning, not their intent – and therefore poses a significant threat to the future of climate change legislation in the U.S., and would likely side with the Trump Administration’s significant environmental rollbacks, hampering climate change progress in the United States.

Activity Rating: * Falling Behind

Although there is some movement in the House and at the state level toward progressive climate legislation, Republicans throughout the federal government have made it clear their priorities lie in rolling back any policies and regulations aimed at fighting climate change. In a record-breaking year for climate impacts, their active mobilization against climate action makes it clear their interests lie in consolidating power, not representing the interests of the American people.

This post was submitted by US Country Manager Stephanie Gagnon

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