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Ambitious 2050 Goals Could Help the US See Massive Environmental Progress

Sustainability News
by Tim Wenger Jul 2, 2020

This is The Climate Win, the most positive sustainability news around the world every week.

This week’s Climate Win dives into the often elusive practice of cross-sector unity. Public, private, and non-profit sectors seem very distant in both goals and action when it comes to climate initiatives. But signs are emerging that this is changing, largely due to increased demand from the public.

The Environment and Energy Study Institute released poll data in April of this year showing massive bipartisan support for renewable energy development, even if participants on opposite sides of the political spectrum supported renewable development for different reasons. However independently, the public, private, and non-profit sectors are beginning to move in the same direction, with 2050 as the “Punto de Reunion.”

Democrats in the US House of Representatives released a massive climate plan on Tuesday that calls for net-zero emissions across the entire country by 2050. “Net-zero” doesn’t actually mean the country wouldn’t produce any carbon emissions — it means that any it does produce would be offset through initiatives like tree planting and carbon capture technology. Still, the plan is incredibly ambitious as it would bring the country in line with a major goal of the 2015 Paris Agreement, which President Donald Trump has pledged to withdraw the United States from.

Though it’s unlikely to become law with Trump in office, the plan has strong bipartisan legs to stand on for further negotiation. Mainly, it doesn’t outright mandate the end of fossil fuel power. The plan also calls for auto producers to produce only electric vehicles by 2035 and for electric utilities to be entirely renewable by 2040, allowing time for companies and utilities to grow existing sustainability plans that could hopefully create and/or save a high number of jobs. Conservative lobby group Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions released a statement supporting many of the plan’s initiatives, though the group was frustrated that Republicans weren’t more involved in the process of putting it together.

“The national goal for net-zero emissions by 2050 is laudable and consistent with many of the voluntary targets set by companies large and small across the United States, and with our recommendations to the Select Committee,” the statement said. “We particularly applaud those proposals that reflect America’s core values of innovation, accountability, and opportunity.”

On the private industry side, one of the country’s largest resort operators announced a major step forward in its move toward more sustainable operations. Vail Resorts announced on July 1 that a new wind energy facility has come online in Nebraska thanks to its investment and commitment to purchase 310,000 kilowatt-hours of wind power annually. That’s enough to power 90 percent of the operations at its 34 North American resorts, including its largest ski areas, Colorado’s Vail and British Columbia’s Whistler Blackcomb.

The ski industry is emerging as a leader in the private sector’s push towards renewable energy, a move championed by Aspen Snowmass and outdoors industry advocacy groups like Protect Our Winters. Montana’s Big Sky Resort began purchasing renewable energy credits to power its 38 lifts back in March, and Jackson Hole has run on wind power since last September.

Planning a ski trip for next winter? Do your part by following these steps to reduce its footprint.

More climate wins

The environmentally focused Green party scored massive wins in French elections last Sunday, according to Reuters. The party will now be a part of or in control of an alliance government in at least 11 cities across the country, driven by increased public demand for cleaner air and less traffic. (Though the country still took offense to this Dutch bike commercial.)

Ford announced Wednesday that it would become carbon neutral by 2050, another move towards the mid-century meeting point we discussed above. They are the first US automaker to make such a bold claim. “We can develop and make great vehicles, sustain and grow a strong business and protect our planet at the same time – in fact, those ideals complement each other,” said Bob Holycross, vice president, chief sustainability, environment and safety officer, in the announcement.

A few weeks ago, this column focused on Environmental Justice, the concept that disadvantaged communities are often adversely affected by climate change, waste management, and other environmental factors. New York took a step to address the issue this week, pledging $10.6 million in grants to install clean power and solar storage systems in low-income communities, according to a report from Grist.

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