Economists, investors and environmentalists are calling on the United States — and the world — to inject big clean energy and climate policy into recovery plans.
Reality check: Such prospects face uphill battles almost everywhere, and especially in the U.S., where proponents are on defense with the Trump administration and lawmakers are in crisis mode.
The big picture: It’s not just environmentalists clamoring for a green economic recovery. The United Nations, the International Monetary Fund and a broad swath of investors and corporate executives are calling for a range of clean-energy policies as well.
- They argue that these policies will not only help the economy better than alternatives, but will also assist in combating another existential threat: climate change.
Where it stands: Congress is going to spend the next several months debating legislation to provide different levels of relief, rescue and recovery to the economy, which is still reeling from coronavirus-fueled shutdowns.
“As long as the country is gripped by the fear of significant personal family trauma and grinding months of unemployment, that's what Congress is going to focus on. I think we are going to be in emergency policy subsistence for the rest of 2020.” — Jason Grumet, president, Bipartisan Policy Center
What they’re saying: Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), one of Washington’s most progressive advocates for climate-change action and clean energy, is on defense.
- He introduced legislation recently that seeks to restrict the Trump administration’s efforts to help the oil industry, which is struggling as demand for fuel craters.
- Merkley is not ready to pursue legislation helping clean energy in any recovery package, he told me in a recent interview.
- “That’ll be another chapter. I’m not introducing a bill on it right now, but I’m holding conversations with others to develop a strategy on it,” Merkley said.
Driving the news: The paralysis is not stopping a growing number of organizations from suggesting numerous policies to green the economy while also rebuilding it, including Grumet’s group.
Click here to read about them and my full column.
The intrigue: One policy idea Washington insiders have talked about (and has happened before) is a classic pairing of a Republican priority — buying excess oil for the nation’s strategic reserves — and a Democratic priority, reauthorizing renewable-energy tax credits.
Yes, but: Such a swap would do little to reduce heat-trapping emissions in the long run and at the deep levels scientists say is necessary, experts say.
- “I think horse-trading of near-term emissions cuts and gains is an awful way to do climate policy, but it’s the most likely thing to happen,” says Varun Sivaram, a visiting senior fellow at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy.
- “If we’re not looking at deep decarbonization, we shouldn’t be doing climate policy.”
What’s next: Stay tuned for deeper dives into some of the discussed policies and the potential for other countries to green their economic recoveries.