We Need a U.S. Climate Law
American climate leadership has sharply zigzagged between Republican and Democratic presidential administrations for a quarter-century. It’s critical to stop this equivocating now. Congress must pass a definitive climate law, not only to ensure a steadier leadership role internationally but also because it is a prerequisite for a more globally competitive U.S. economy. It’s time for bipartisanship. Even if whatever emerges won’t be adequate initially to halt climate change, it is the only way the U.S. can win the race for the low-carbon markets and ensure its global economic competitiveness that sustains its international leadership.
Thirty countries have passed formal climate legislation, including New Zealand (2002), the United Kingdom (2008), Brazil (2009) and Denmark (2019). The European Parliament will consider a climate law this spring, which includes border tax adjustments against countries without comparable laws. It’s no longer true that climate laws are risky or don’t work. By continually updating its Climate Change Act of 2008, the U.K. has achieved a 45 percent reduction below 1990 levels, and plans to achieve 68 percent by 2030. Germany did not have an overarching climate law originally, but by stitching together smaller pieces of legislation and then ultimately passing a climate law and related carbon tax in 2019, Germany has reduced its emissions 36 percent below 1990 levels. It plans to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.