Jul 14, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Senate Democrats' budget resolution includes key climate priorities

President Joe Biden and Senator Chuck Schumer seen in the Senate.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and President Biden speak briefly to reporters as they arrive at the Capitol for a Senate Democratic luncheon, July 14. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Included in the newly released outline of Senate Democrats' $3.5 trillion budget resolution are key details on which climate provisions made the cut.

Why it matters: The budget resolution sets the stage for consideration of a Democrats'-only measure to fund some of President Biden's key priorities, including some of the most far-reaching proposals yet enacted in the U.S. to tackle the climate crisis.

The intrigue: According to a summary from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer's office, the resolution's top-line numbers will make room for a Civilian Climate Corps in the eventual reconciliation bill. This is a major priority for some environmental groups, including the Sunrise Movement.

Democrats also intend to include a Clean Electricity Standard (CES) in the reconciliation bill aimed at meeting Biden's goal of achieving 100% carbon-free power by 2035.

  • The CES they intend to incorporate into the reconciliation bill was written by Democratic Sen. Tina Smith of Minnesota, who co-authored a CES bill in 2019.
  • The White House initially proposed a CES as a way to decarbonize the electricity sector while allowing utilities the flexibility in choosing how to do so. Whether the CES could be included in a reconciliation package and have continued White House backing is unclear.
  • “Getting it included in the budget package sends a strong signal we are committed to tackling climate change. I will continue to work hard on getting a CES done because we cannot squander this moment. We can either lead or follow when it comes to the clean energy transition, and I want us to lead,” Smith said in a statement.

Details: The resolution also includes funding that Democrats intend to carve out for:

  • Clean energy and vehicle tax incentives, which go above and beyond what's included in the bipartisan infrastructure bill.
  • Agriculture, wildfire prevention and forestry.
  • Buying clean technologies for the federal government.
  • Making buildings more efficient.
  • Forming a clean energy accelerator to develop new technologies.

What we're watching: The resolution summary Democrats released includes a reference to "A new Methane Reduction and Polluter Import Fees to increase our emissions reductions," which could have trade implications. The outline has yet to be translated into legislative language.

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