When the United States pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement and later rolled back over 100 environmental regulations, President Trump established his administration’s apathetic stance on the environment. As reported by The New York Times, “President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. will use the next four years to try to restore the environmental policies that his predecessor has methodically blown up, but the damage done by the greenhouse gas pollution unleashed by President Trump’s rollbacks may prove to be one of the most profound legacies of his single term.”
President-elect Biden has already signaled that the U.S. will rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, but his administration faces a tough journey across choppy waters to rectify, restore and improve the country’s energy and climate policies. If Democrats are able to gain a majority in the Senate, Biden’s $2 trillion green stimulus package — whose goal is to put the country on the path to net-zero emissions by 2050 — will move forward. However, as Morgan Stanley predicts, in “a divided government, legislative options to constrain the oil and gas industry could be effectively ‘off the table.’”
Even if the stimulus package fails to pass, President-elect Biden will be assembling a ‘climate world summit’ with global leaders to establish protocols for reducing greenhouse emissions. Biden will assuredly reverse President Trump’s dismantling of climate policies by championing a national imperative to reduce greenhouse gases. We can look to him to sign executive orders to fortify fuel economy standards, enforcement of efficiency standards for appliances and buildings and establish methane limits for oil and gas wells.
The environmental policies adopted by President-elect Biden’s administration will overwhelmingly influence global economic investments and geopolitical affairs. This, in large measure, will determine the speed of the development of new high paying sustainable jobs in America’s new green economy. Biden’s team’s ‘green growth’ agenda emphasizes environment-friendly regulations, zero or low carbon energy production and green sector manufacturing.
While renewable energy companies look forward to Biden’s leadership opening new doors for government research grants and expanded staff, America’s environmental boosts will likely first be seen on a state-by-state basis. For example, Governor Cuomo is steering New York to realise 70% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030, and zero greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector by 2040. New York state is making considerable advancement toward these goals with major investments in energy storage, energy efficiency, solar energy and wind energy. Cuomo’s $33 billion five-year climate plan has New York’s environmental energy power players — NYSERDA, NYPA, Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and New York Green Bank — in charge of building the necessary infrastructure needed to drive down carbon emissions.
An executive order for the state of California mandates that the state achieve carbon neutrality by 2045 and maintain net negative emissions thereafter.
Until significant environmental legislation is able to move forward on the federal level, the United States’ adoption of green policies will be a state-by-state affair, and NEPA could be a model to follow. The National Environmental Act (NEPA) is a federal law that requires all federal agencies to submit environmental impact statements for all activity that could affect the environment.
Post pandemic, there is no doubt that our collective future requires clean air and our pathway to that environmentally sound planet demands a global support of economically sound alternative energy plans. A ‘bet’ on clean energy through investments in renewable energy and energy storage is a wager that will deliver a cleaner planet that will thrive for current and future generations.
Ron MacDonald is president and CEO of Zinc8 Energy Solutions. The Zinc-Air Flow Battery from Zinc8 Energy Solutions is an energy storage solution designed to serve a wide range of long duration applications for microgrids and utilities. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org and on LinkedIn.