ARKANSAS, Oct 18 (Future Headlines)- In the fight against human-driven climate change, the United States, alongside other nations, faces a pressing need to rapidly reduce carbon emissions. The Biden administration has set the ambitious goal of achieving ‘net zero’ carbon emissions by 2050. To reach this target, the country has passed significant climate-focused legislation, such as the Inflation Reduction Act, providing a theoretical pathway toward this goal. However, a new report from the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) emphasizes that while progress is underway, it remains fragile and in its early stages.

Authored by a diverse group of experts, including engineers, scientists, medical specialists, and policy experts, the report outlines several recommendations to translate this theoretical pathway into concrete actions.

One of the foremost concerns highlighted in the report is the imperative of ensuring that the transition to clean energy addresses both climate change and the social injustices perpetuated by historical policies. While policies, such as the 1930s redlining, have been phased out, their legacy persists in disenfranchised Black and brown communities. These communities often lack basic amenities like trees and shade, leading to temperature disparities of up to 15 degrees. Furthermore, policies have disproportionately placed health-damaging infrastructure, including fossil fuel plants and highways, in these same marginalized communities.

The report underscores the critical importance of integrating energy justice and equity into the transition to clean energy. Historically disadvantaged communities must benefit from these policies, and efforts to rectify past harms are essential.

Beyond the ethical aspect, the report argues that equity is a crucial practical tool in the transition to clean energy. It highlights that while many technological strategies for reducing carbon emissions exist, the pace of transition is influenced by various social, political, and institutional factors. In addition, it’s imperative to consider public opinion and community choices. Resistance from communities that do not want specific clean energy projects, such as solar farms or electric vehicle charging stations, can significantly hinder progress.

Technologically focused scientists and planners often stress the urgency of the transition, but the report emphasizes the need for collaboration with communities and a willingness to listen. Failure to do so may result in substantial pushback and project delays or halts.

The Justice40 Initiative, a mandate from President Biden to direct 40% of major climate policy investments toward historically disadvantaged communities, plays a pivotal role in addressing equity. The NASEM report suggests that this initiative should be codified into law to ensure its long-term and robust integration into decision-making processes. Achieving equity in the transition to clean energy is essential for its success, as it necessitates buy-in from all communities.

One significant gap highlighted in the report is the lack of comprehensive, centralized systems to track the effectiveness of new climate policies. The absence of a standardized mechanism to monitor the outcomes of substantial investments in climate policy is seen as a potential source of problems. To ensure accountability and transparency, there is a need to establish a reliable system to evaluate policy impacts.

The report points out a considerable gap in current policies related to buildings and heavy industry. These sectors are major contributors to carbon emissions, with buildings alone accounting for about 35% of the U.S.’s carbon emissions. The authors recommend a range of measures, from strengthening building codes to prioritize electrification to enhancing existing programs like the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. These steps are essential to drive these sectors toward fossil-fuel-free futures.

The report underscores the remarkable progress in government-driven climate action in recent years, with significant climate-focused laws like the Inflation Reduction Act paving the way for substantial emissions reductions. Nevertheless, the stakes in addressing climate change have never been higher. This is a unique and singular opportunity, as highlighted by the report’s authors. To succeed, it is imperative to implement the existing climate plans relentlessly. Only by addressing equity, ensuring transparency, and focusing on sectors like buildings and heavy industry can the U.S. achieve its climate goals and protect the environment for future generations.

Reporting by Emad Martin