Breath of Clarity

Environmental Policy Analysis Discussion #7: B

I decided to argue for the adoption of “a competitive climate” revised strategy because it has not been done by other classmates yet in the discussion. My version of a competitive climate strategy is growing recognition of the competitive benefits of low-carbon innovation leading to a strong, early U.S. federal response, including a price on carbon. Given the report by C2ES and the state of the current political landscape, a new climate bill could still find a pathway through Congress. I base my argument upon the potential to learn from and act on lessons following the Obama administration’s 2010 climate bill that did not pass. First of all, a new climate bill must not entail an economy-wide carbon cap as it is overly ambitious. Instead, a new climate bill must target a specific sector. While the 2010 climate bill focused on electricity as a significant source of emissions, I am shifting the attention towards buildings. It shifts the key stakeholders from being utility companies who are under the grip of fossil fuel companies to those involved with buildings.

Next, in order for a new climate bill to find a pathway through Congress, it is important to consider approval is required from a Republican-dominated Senate. However, it is insufficient to rely on the outnumbered Senate Democrats to make it happen. Therefore, it is crucial to engage the Republican party and recognize it prioritizes strengthening the economy above all else. The strategy is a great one to implement considering the federal government recently released a report in September 2020 outlining the impacts of climate change on financial markets (US Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Market Risk Advisory Committee 2020). It is an example of the executive branch highlighting the climate issue and bringing in potential solutions as opposed to turning concentration elsewhere. Seeing President Trump, a climate change denier, still allowed the report to be released, there may still be potential in advancing the modest policy, specific to the building sector, while he is still in office. Otherwise, in the case Biden is elected, there is potential for him to influence the Republican Senate to be more serious about the urgency of climate change. Either way, the goal is for my plan to generate some sort of common ground between the parties for the purpose of getting any sort of new climate bill onto the agenda.

My plan would be to show how the economy can be enhanced by improving the environmental sustainability of the building sector. The report showed a new climate bill would not entail financial sacrifice, but would rather be a method to support the cost-effectiveness of infrastructure as well as residential and commercial property. It also instigates fear in the Republican Senators by explaining, if significant climate change action is not taken, impacts could decrease productive capacity as well as lower ability to generate employment, income, and opportunity (US Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Market Risk Advisory Committee 2020). Creating the legislation under the basis of the report can be used to sway the Senate focused on prioritizing economic stability in the face of COVID-19 in a way that does not ask for massive strides in climate change action all at once. Then, after seeing the positive economic effects of making the slight change, Congress may be more willing to pass other new climate bills.


Lempert, Robert, et. al. 2019. “Pathways to 2050: Alternatives Scenarios for Decarbonizing the U.S. Economy.” C2ES, May 2019. Accessed October 25, 2020.

US Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Market Risk Advisory Committee. 2020. Managing Climate Risk in the U.S. Financial System. September 2020.

Comment by Professor Morgan:


I love that you have taken an out of the box approach to this and offered a new perspective. Chipping away at the problem sector by sector can have results.

In 2019 California pass a state law requiring solar panels on all new residential construction. to an external site.

As I said in my response to Andrea’s post we could also invest in bringing older buildings up to newer energy efficiency standards which would help low income and older people stay in their homes while also cutting consumer’s energy costs and emissions.

My Response:

Hi Professor Morgan,

Great point that investment in bringing older buildings up to newer efficiency standards would help low-income households.

In 2008, Grid AlternativesLinks to an external site. (GRID) was selected by the California Public Utilities Commission to serve as the statewide program manager for its groundbreaking Single-family Affordable Solar Homes (SASH)Links to an external site. incentive program supporting renewable energy expansion across California. GRID developed a model to make solar PV technology practical and accessible for low-income communities while providing pathways to clean energy jobs. The NGO offers multiple levels of workforce development and service learning opportunities, from volunteerism to paid internships. Today, GRID is a leading voice in low-income solar policy and the nation’s largest nonprofit solar installer, serving families throughout California, Colorado, the Mid-Atlantic region, and tribal communities nationwide. As we include NGOs in our evaluations of stakeholders, it is interesting to closely evaluate their contributions.

Comment #2:

Original Post by Neisa McMillan:

The C2ES study outlined some compelling scenarios for significant reduction of U.S. emissions. Each scenario—competitive climate, climate federalism, and low-carbon lifestyles (Lempert 2019)—has its charm, though low-carbon lifestyles might not entirely be achieved without incentives to consumers.

The C2ES study asserted that technological innovations for lowering emissions would not be successful without policy drivers (Lempert 2019). This is an interesting assertion as we are now witnessing record lows in renewable energy costs, these of which illustrate the economic opportunity in renewables. According to Silvio Marcacci (2020) energy contributor for Forbes, the U.S. Energy Information Administration predicted that wind and solar would dominate American energy generation in 2020. Marcacci discussed declines in coal production and coal facility closures as in renewables rose 28% in 2019—all despite the Trump administrations push for coal. This new economic reality illustrates that saving the climate is actually affordable (Marcacci 2020).

Given society’s newfound love for renewables I believe it is quite feasible to see a climate bill pass in the near future. However, in California, the state’s new energy policies, while well intended, are driving up housing costs and forcing natives to leave the state. California intends to obtain 100 percent clean power by 2045 in addition to the state’s new mandate that solar panels be installed on all new homes. Still, Los Angeles banned large-scale wind energy operations in unincorporated parts of the county and Solano and Inyo counties also placed restrictions on wind energy projects. Basically, California residents want the benefits of clean energy without having to deal with the facilities that generate the electricity (Gonzalez 2018). This could be a problem due to the need for additional wind energy operations to help the state meet its goal.

A Portland State University study (2019) examined the effects of renewable energy policies on energy poverty. The study found correlations between reduced emissions from renewable energy consumption and increased inequality. This phenomenon may be observed in California, where tax incentives in the form of subsidies are reducing energy prices for homeowners yet driving up the costs of energies from fossil fuels. This leads to increased energy bills to consumers who otherwise can’t afford the luxuries of installing solar panels. Still, the study provides examples of how some poor nations have reduced energy poverty with renewables such as in sub-Saharan Africa and southeast Asia, where solar energy farms have provided poverty stricken areas access to electricity. Authors suggest policy makers consider these examples and seek out initiatives that reduce both emissions and inequalities (Science Daily 2019).

New York is another example of how states are taking climate matters into their own hands. A new climate bill aimed to significantly reduce carbon emissions is highly expensive and would only reduce global emissions by 0.3 percent by 2050. While the bill will hopefully inspire other states to follow suit, increases in living standards in both China and India are expected to increase global emissions (Bastasch 2019).

Given the examples of state led efforts to address climate policy I have no doubt that a climate bill might find a pathway through Congress. In fact, these state examples might just be what is necessary for the federal government to come up with a greater carbon policy initiative; one that provides framework for regulatory standards that reduce emissions, balance social equality, while at the same time providing economic incentives that appease all (or most) stakeholders.

Bastasch, Michael. 2019. “New York Passes ‘Very Expensive’ Climate Change Bill to Cut Global CO2 Emissions 0.3% Over 30 Years.” Assessed October 28, 2020.

Gonzalez, Cutter. 2018. “California’s Energy Policies Drive Up Cost of Living.” The Hill, October 1, 2018.

Lempert, Robert, et. al. 2019. “Pathways to 2050: Alternatives Scenarios for Decarbonizing the U.S. Economy.” C2ES, May 2019.

Marcacci, Silvio. 2020. “Renewable Energy Prices Hit Record Lows: How Can Utilities Benefit From Unstoppable Solar And Wind?” Forbes, January 21, 2020.

Science News. 2019. “Shifts to Re Energy Can Drive up Energy Poverty, Study Finds.” Assessed October 28, 2020.

My Comment:

Hi Neisa,

Great point in saying low-carbon lifestyles might not entirely be achieved without incentives. Other classmates mentioned the difficulty of enforcing the low-carbon lifestyle. However, when market-based incentives encourage polluting entities to reduce releases of harmful pollutants, it impacts the price for consumers to the point where they are motivated to make decisions independent of any oversight’s presence. An example of an incentive directly at the household level is citizens can be encouraged to reduce curbside solid waste by recycling and other means if there is a disposal charge based on the volume of solid waste (Anderson 2001). Additionally, market-based approaches create an incentive for the private sector to incorporate pollution abatement into production or consumption decisions and to innovate in such a way as to continually search for the least costly method of abatement. A criticism of command-and-control policies is that firms are only encouraged to reduce to a regulated level. With market incentives, firms will reduce their emissions as long as it is financially valuable for them to do so. Cost savings to firms then translates into cost savings to customers who purchase products from them.


Anderson, Robert. 2001. “The United States Experience with Economic Incentives for Protecting the Environment”. National Center for Environmental Economics. Accessed November 1 2020.