Climate change is an existential threat to communities, the U.S. economy, and the long-term survival of America’s wildlife. It impacts countless aspects of our lives, from the foods we eat and where we live, to our health, our livelihoods, and the cherished conservation traditions Americans hold dear. The National Wildlife Federation has long called for bold efforts to combat climate change, and to help communities and ecosystems adapt to worsening impacts from climate-fueled megafires and hurricanes, algal outbreaks and extreme heat, habitat loss, the spread of diseases and invasive species.
The 116th Congress made some important climate progress, such as passing bipartisan clean energy innovation and tax credit legislation, and a phase-out of the super polluting hydrofluorocarbons. But there is a great need, and a great opportunity, for more robust and ambitious climate action, to both tackle the climate crisis and create economic opportunity. We commit to working with policymakers to re-assert the government’s leadership in combating the climate crisis while ensuring that no community is left behind in the transition to a zero-carbon economy.
Shifting the electric grid to clean generation, and using that to power everything from cars and buses to blast furnaces and chemical plants, will require a massive buildout of new generation sources, battery storage, transmission, greater energy efficiency upgrades, and a modern, resilient grid. The next 10 years could make or break the effort to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century: a necessary step if we want to avoid the most catastrophic climate impacts on water security, food supply, human health, wildlife, and more. The United States cannot meet our net-zero goal without this energy transformation.
Congress should focus on long-term tax incentives for clean energy deployment to create good-paying jobs that can support families, and prioritize the most carbon-intensive regions. Congress should also consider a clean electricity standard to ensure we meet aggressive goals; vehicle electrification infrastructure and tax credits for zero-emission vehicles; and additional research, development, and deployment funding for carbon capture, use, and storage and direct air capture to remove carbon emissions and create new markets for captured carbon.
Congress can meet climate goals by focusing on zero-carbon advances throughout the economy. The National Wildlife Federation continues to support an economy-wide carbon price, which – if implemented effectively and equitably – could reduce pollution in every neighborhood while generating revenue to fund clean technology deployment, worker training, economic diversification, and more.
Complementary, industry- or sector-specific policies are also needed, and Congress should focus on research and incentives for clean manufacturing and industrial decarbonization, with prioritization of deindustrialized and fossil fuel-producing communities as well as a low-carbon fuel standard to speed transportation electrification and development of low- or zero-carbon liquid fuels for marine and air travel. Congress should also finance efficiency upgrades and retrofits for homes, businesses, schools, hospitals, and government buildings while fostering inclusion of natural infrastructure and carbon-sequestering green spaces in infrastructure projects.
Many communities have endured decades of pollution and underinvestment, and others are highly dependent on the polluting industries that endanger their well-being. Climate change compounds the burdens that historically disenfranchised, rural, and fossil fuelproducing communities already face.
Congress must ensure that ambitious, equitable climate policy targets investment and incentives to blunt the impacts of economic transition, support workers, build climate resilience, and revive depressed local economies while including local voices in determining investments, planning, and outcomes, to ensure that pollution reductions occur most rapidly in overburdened communities. Congress also needs to better equip state and local policymakers in identifying and driving investment to pollution- and climate-affected areas through improved use of mapping tools like Environmental Protection Agency’s EJScreen.
Natural ecosystems absorb and store carbon, and protecting and restoring forests, wetlands and other natural systems is one of the best ways to remove carbon from the atmosphere. Congress should pursue an aggressive agenda of direct investment, tax incentives, research, and other measures centered around natural resource restoration and resilience to sequester carbon naturally while generating additional benefits for local economies, recreation, clean air and water, and wildlife.
Protecting existing carbon sinks in forests, grasslands, and coastal ecosystems is critical to prevent massive carbon emissions. Scaling up the use of climate-smart approaches to management and restoration of landscapes and habitat will play a vital role in locking in carbon above and below ground while boosting resilience in a changing climate.
To ensure that renewable energy sources contribute to climate change mitigation goals instead of inadvertently undermining them, Congress should reject the anti-science appropriations rider that erroneously forces federal agencies to consider all biogenic emissions from forest-derived bioenergy to be “carbon neutral.” The rider ignores the science that shows that different types of forest biomass and efficiencies of use result in different emissions profiles and time lags between emissions and re-absorption of carbon during forest regrowth. Congress should defer to the best available science and deliberation by independent experts to understand net emissions from bioenergy. Overall, Congress should seek to promote emissions reductions in the near term, when addressing the climate crisis is the most critical.
Photo credits: Timothy Pohlhaus (wetlands), Sarah Swenty/USFWS (solar panels), Bob Wick/BLM (people on public lands), Lieut. Commander Mark Moran, NOAA Corps, NMAO/AOC (Hurricane Katrina flooding), Scott Flaherty/USFWS (wind turbine)
More than one-third of U.S. fish and wildlife species are at risk of extinction in the coming decades. The National Wildlife Federation is on the ground in seven regions across the country, collaborating with 53 state and territory affiliates to reverse the crisis and ensure wildlife thrive.