WASHINGTON — An influential group of Democrats in the House of Representatives on Tuesday will set an ambitious target for United States greenhouse gas emissions, calling for a reduction to net-zero by 2050.
The goal, intended to slow the pace of global warming, does not include either a legislative or regulatory plan. It would very likely require rigorous new curbs on fossil fuels over the coming decades and steep increases in wind, solar and other renewable sources of power.
The initiative does not go as far as the Green New Deal. That Democratic plan calls for achieving carbon neutrality within a decade and supplying 100 percent of the country’s electricity from clean energy sources while also creating millions of high-wage jobs.
Analysts described the announcement Tuesday as an effort by centrist Democrats to reclaim the climate agenda while treating global warming with the urgency that scientists say it demands.
The 2050 target is expected to be adopted in the Energy and Commerce Committee, the primary legislative body for developing climate change legislation in the House.
“I think the main difference between this and the Green New Deal is the Green New Deal was the 2030 deadline and we have 2050,” said Representative Frank Pallone Jr., the New Jersey Democrat who heads the Energy and Commerce Committee. “If we can meet an earlier deadline, great. But right now the scientific community is saying 2050 is the key year.”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations’ foremost body on climate science, has found that the world needs to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 to avoid the worst consequences of global warming.
Like balancing a bank account, achieving carbon neutrality means balancing the emissions of planet-warming gases with measures that take emissions out of the atmosphere. California pledged under former Gov. Jerry Brown to achieve net-zero emissions by 2045, though that measure has not yet been approved by the legislature. Last month New York announced it intended to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
Doing so will mean drastically limiting greenhouse gas emissions and moving away from fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas. It could require measures that Republicans have forcefully rejected, like a tax on carbon or a renewable energy standard. It also could mean policies that some Democrats have opposed, like funding carbon capture and storage technologies and building more nuclear power plants.
“This is a big challenge,” Mr. Pallone said. “There’s no single policy.”
He, along with Representatives Paul D. Tonko of New York and Bobby L. Rush of Illinois, said the target would be followed up by either a single climate bill or several pieces of legislation by the end of the year.
But, Mr. Pallone added, “In all honesty I don’t think the president is going to go along with any of this or most of it, but we’ll still try.”
Drew Hammill, a spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, said she had “tasked all of the committees to address the climate issue” but declined to directly say whether she supported the new target.
Representative Greg Walden of Oregon, the top Republican on the energy committee, expressed support for climate action but also declined to say whether he backed the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050. “Climate change is real,” he said. “If we’re serious about tackling this challenge, we need to continue to offer serious, bipartisan answers that protect our economy and our environment.”
Varshini Prakash, co-founder of the Sunrise Movement, the youth advocacy group that helped to develop the Green New Deal, said she was glad to see Democratic leaders “finally laying out their plan to confront the climate emergency.” But she called the goal “low” and said the science required that the United States act far more aggressively.
“We need leaders who are willing to boldly push for the scale of solutions we need and fight with our generation to change what’s politically possible,” she said.
Some Republicans, including President Trump, have seized on the Green New Deal as a way to paint Democrats as extremists.
“I really don’t like their policies of taking away your car, taking away your airplane flights, of ‘let’s hop a train to California,’ or ‘you’re not allowed to own cows anymore!’ Mr. Trump said at a rally this year in El Paso, Tex. The Green New Deal does not propose to end airline travel or outlaw cows.
The last ambitious congressional action on climate change was a bill to establish a cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gas emissions. That measure passed the House in 2009 but died without a vote in the Senate.
Mr. Tonko said this time the committee intended to reach out to Republicans, business leaders, labor unions and supporters of the Green New Deal to develop as broad a consensus as possible.
“We are not going to have another shot at this,” he said.
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