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President Biden’s climate directives state a goal of a carbon-free power sector by 2035 and net-zero economy by 2050. With state laws like the Illinois Climate and Equitable Jobs Act, we’re put on the path to reach 46% of energy from renewables by 2030, charting the path for meeting the goal of net-zero by 2050. Why do we need to make these changes now? 

Where we are now:

–Oil and gas companies are gouging prices at the pump

–Coal plants are closing, people losing jobs

–Renewable energy is cheaper and cleaner than fossil fuel energy and creates many more jobs than are lost in transition

–Success of renewable energy efforts so far are huge but stagnating because legislation is needed, people are losing jobs and not enough people are benefitting.

Where we can go:

–The US government is investing billions in the transition to clean renewable energy

–“Rewiring American” plan shows we can electrify everything with existing technology, create millions of jobs, and meet emissions reduction goals

–Clean energy protects nature and people

–CEJA, a clean energy law looking to pass in Illinois, provides the structure needed for a just, prosperous transition for all Illinoisans

 

We must have strong laws in place that cause the change we want to see and lead to many widespread benefits, which are local and global. Despite the many myths told, the legacy fossil fuel energy systems must be replaced. The costs and risks of not taking action now are far higher than those associated with electrifying our economy and switching to clean energy.

Costs of Inaction and DelayBenefits of Clean Energy and Jobs Action
–Climate related and geophysical disasters claimed an estimated 1.3 million lives between 1998 and 2017 (UN)

–8 million people died from fossil fuel pollution in 2018, about 1 out of every five people (Harvard)

–The U.S. has sustained 285 weather and climate disasters since 1980 where overall damages/costs reached or exceeded $1 billion. The total cost of these 285 events exceeds $1.875 trillion. (NOAA)

–Biodiversity and natural ecosystems are in imminent peril without drastic systemic change. (Science Mag.)

–Even in solar energy, men are paid more than women, African Americans are underrepresented, and benefits are going to the usual corporate suspects. (SEIA)

–The Clean Air Act saved 160,000 lives in 2010 alone (EPA)

–The net benefit of federal rules to reduce greenhouse gas emission are calculated at $300 billion per year. (Columbia)

–CEJA in Illinois will bring $1.5 billion per year or new private investments in direct and contract labor (Accelerate Group)

–Over 100 cities across the globe are already getting over 70% of their electricity from renewable energy (CDP)

–A shift to clean energy in the US creates 25 million jobs at peak and 5 million permanent jobs, keeps emissions below target levels, and lowers electricity costs to consumers by $1000-2000/year. (Rewiring America)

 

According to calculations and reporting by the International Renewable Energy Agency:

IRENA

This graph shows that switching to renewable energy for electricity as well as electrification and efficiency can require about 90% of the reduction required to get the atmosphere back to normal from being overloaded with greenhouse gases. This shows how the switch to clean energy, besides all the other benefits, “can provide many of the quick wins for a sustainable future.” The report further states:

“Not acting to mitigate the effects of climate change will be much costlier. Existing plans and policies (the Reference Case in this study) will result in additional costs of USD 96 trillion related to air pollution and negative climate impacts by 2050 compared to the accelerated scale-up of renewables, energy efficiency and other technologies identified in the REmap Case. Avoiding these costs under the REmap transition pathway would require additional expenditures. Nevertheless, the cumulative benefit of the REmap Case by 2050 would be in the range of USD 65 trillion to USD 160 trillion.”

The total cost between now and 2050 for this particular study is about $3.2 trillion per year. These numbers are a bit incomprehensible, but that basically is about 2% of gross domestic product worldwide. While substantial, the net benefits by 2050 would reach between $65-160 trillion. Obviously, it behooves us to do this right.

Transforming our economy to smart, clean climate-aware industry and energy is good for the climate, economy and humanity, that triple bottom line. Hundreds of companies that are part of the Science Based Targets initiative report that adopting a science-based target:

  • Boosts profitability
  • Improves investor confidence
  • Drives innovation
  • Reduces regulatory uncertainty
  • Strengthens brand reputation

Many credible organizations and reports have been prepared over the past several years dissecting the clean energy future. Around the world, even though the fossil energy industry still has a lot of power and money, the people want clean energy. They’re ready.