Cardin and Van Hollen aim for net-zero greenhouse gases by 2050

By: Anna Hovey, Capital News Service

Tailpipe emissions are major contributors to greenhouse gases. Maryland Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen are proposing a bill to get the United States to “net zero” greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Photo Credit: Anna Hovey/Capital News Service

WASHINGTON — A bill aimed at achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in the United States by no later than 2050 has been introduced by Maryland Democratic Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen.

The United States produced 16% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions in 2016, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. That is second only to China, the world’s most populous country, which accounted for 29%.  

“As the climate crisis, which threatens the health and well-being of my constituents in Maryland and Americans across the nation, becomes increasingly apparent, people are rightfully demanding action from their federal government,” Cardin said in a statement.

The senators’ Clean Economy Act was introduced in the wake of last month’s United Nations annual Emissions Gap Report, which revealed that current efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions globally are not yet sizable enough to avoid a potentially catastrophic increase in the global temperature. 

The new measure also follows a series of environmental law rollbacks under President Donald Trump. Some 95 air pollution and emissions laws have been eased in the last three years, according to The New York Times.

Trump has also announced his intention to remove the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement, a decision that will not take effect until November 2020. 

Prospects for the bill are uncertain in the GOP-controlled Senate, which has not been receptive to major environmental legislation. 

Besides Cardin and Van Hollen, the legislation is co-sponsored by a total of 30 other senators – 29 Democrats and Sen. Angus King, I-Maine.

The senators’ bill would require the Environmental Protection Agency to set emissions targets for 2025, 2030 and 2040. 

“This legislation provides EPA with important tools to confront carbon pollution change while promoting economic growth,” Van Hollen said in a statement.

“The Clean Economy Act recognizes that the EPA lies at the center of America’s climate future and empowers it to address climate change proactively,” Cardin said. “Making the necessary investments to reach net-zero will strengthen our economy, create good-paying jobs, and protect public health and national security.”

“It’s past time we get serious about addressing climate change,” said Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, the Democrats’ 2016 vice presidential nominee and one of the bill’s co-sponsors.

“The success of our economy is directly linked to our ability to develop innovative clean energy technologies and avoid the escalating costs of climate change,” Van Hollen said. 

Among the bill’s supporters are the United Steelworkers, the American Federation of Teachers, Clean Water Action, the Environmental Defense Fund, the National Wildlife Federation, the Sierra Club, the World Wildlife Fund and Environment America.

Andrea McGimsey, senior director for Environment America’s Global Warming Solutions Campaign, said in a statement that it was essential that the federal government follow the many states that have made addressing climate change a top priority. 

“By cosponsoring and supporting the Clean Economy Act, senators will put the American government’s might behind the great work that’s being done in states across the country,” McGimsey said. “Record-breaking extreme weather is devastating families and communities… Before it’s too late, members of Congress who haven’t already done so must step up and counter the existential threat of climate change.”

Presidential candidate and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, are among the bill’s other co-sponsors.

“In California, we’re ahead of schedule to meet the ambitious goal of 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2045, “ Feinstein said. “At the same time, our economy has grown to be the fifth-largest in the world. That’s proof positive that fighting climate change supports a strong economy.”