D.C. unveils strongest climate bill in the country

Cities and states continue to push forward as they work to meet the goals laid out by the Paris agreement.


Lawmakers in the nation’s capital have announced the strongest climate bill in the country, as Washington, D.C. looks to take action on global warming while encouraging renewable energy.

Councilmember Mary Cheh, who represents Ward 3, unveiled details of the bill on Monday. The “Clean Energy D.C. Act,” a carbon pricing effort, would roll out the strongest renewable electricity standard in the United States. Through the legislation, D.C. would create sweeping building efficiency standards, and raise the current fee on “dirty energy” the city already has in place.

Resulting revenue will be used to invest in renewable energy projects, in addition to assisting low-income ratepayers.

“The Clean Energy D.C. Act is an important step forward to meeting our cutting edge, progressive goals for greenhouse gas reductions,” said Cheh. “This legislation puts the District of Columbia at the forefront of the nation in responding to climate change and also directly aligns us with the Mayor’s even more aggressive goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.”

The bill comes on the heels of Mayor Muriel Bowser’s return from the Global Climate Action Summit earlier this month, where the official joined other leaders in committing to pursue strong carbon reduction goals.


Bowser has also previously committed to reducing the District’s fossil fuel emissions by 50 percent by 2032, something the city currently is not on track to do. According to an August analysis by the Department of Energy and Environment, the proposed clean energy act announced Monday would help D.C. achieve its target — it is expected to reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions by 49.4 percent from 2006 levels over the next 14 years.

The bill would moreover put D.C. on an accelerated timeline to 100 percent renewable energy by 2032, the fastest in the country.

In the time since President Donald Trump announced a U.S. exit from the Paris agreement last year, numerous cities and states have worked to step up and push forward with the pact’s goals.

California earlier this month passed a law requiring the state to use 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2045; an executive order also requires the state to become carbon neutral by that date. And Hawaii passed similar laws in June. Meanwhile, Rhode Island aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 95 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

But even with these local actions, the country is no longer on track to meet its initial emissions reduction targets, as the administration has worked to roll back environmental regulations and gutted climate efforts.


There has also been some resistance to Cheh’s efforts — she has been at the forefront of driving the carbon pricing bill. Activists argued earlier this year that initial drafts of the bill laid out pricing metrics too low to actually keep D.C. up-to-speed with the goals laid out by the Paris climate agreement, which the city has vowed to honor.

It was not immediately clear on Monday if the final draft of the bill resolved those concerns, but numerous advocates and organizations praised the measure. The D.C. Climate Coalition, which is composed of more than 100 area groups, issued a letter of support for the bill.

“For the District to reach its climate goals, Council must swiftly pass the Clean Energy D.C. Act. We stand with voters, businesses and residents who are counting on the Council to pass this critical Clean Energy D.C. bill before the close of the 2018 session,” said Camila Thorndike, D.C. Campaign Director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network Action Fund, in a statement.

All D.C. legislation, however, is at the mercy of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, which has oversight over the city and could make the bill’s eventual passage more challenging.