Rep. McEachin rolls out ambitious climate bill

By: - November 22, 2019 12:02 pm

U.S. Rep. Don McEachin speaks outside the Virginia Capitol. (Photo by Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

WASHINGTON — Virginia Rep. Don McEachin, D-Richmond, introduced ambitious legislation this week that would commit the United States to achieve a 100% clean energy economy by 2050. 

McEachin’s bill, which has more than 150 co-sponsors in the House and the backing of national environmental groups, has been in the works for months. It would require economy-wide net-zero greenhouse gas emissions; it would also direct federal agencies to draft plans to clamp down on emissions that contribute to climate change. 

“The need to act on climate has never been clearer: 2019 is on pace to be one of the hottest years ever recorded and every week brings another community damaged by extreme weather events fueled by climate change,” said McEachin said in a statement. 

The bill, titled the 100% Clean Economy Act of 2019, “will protect public health and our environment; create high-quality green jobs that will strengthen our economy; and mitigate the impacts of climate change for all communities and all generations,” he said. 

Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, said McEachin’s bill “presents an opportunity to tackle the climate crisis while providing federal leadership towards the creation of a new energy system.”

A major United Nations report released last year said the world could face catastrophic climate change impacts unless global greenhouse gas emissions are cut by 45 percent by 2030. The world would need to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, the report found.  

The targets in McEachin’s proposal are less ambitious than the Green New Deal, a proposal championed by U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) that aims to transition the United States to 100% renewable energy by 2030. 

McEachin, who isn’t a co-sponsor of the Green New Deal, called that legislation “aspirational,” noting that it lays out broad goals but doesn’t articulate a path forward. 

His bill, he said, “is still ambitious and it’s very consistent with what scientists tell us we have to achieve.” 

All seven Virginia Democrats in the House have signed on as co-sponsors of McEachin’s bill. No House Republicans, including the four from Virginia, are among the co-sponsors. 

The bill is one of several major pieces of climate change efforts introduced in the House since Democrats took control of the chamber in January. But while some of those efforts could clear the House this Congress, they’re unlikely to get traction in the GOP-controlled Senate. 

McEachin introduced the legislation after returning to Washington this month following about three months of recovery from surgery in August. 

He faced complications from the surgery, he said, but he’s feeling “much better” and his strength is coming back, he told the Mercury in an interview this week. He has been back and forth between Washington and Richmond, but he expects to be back in Washington full time after the Thanksgiving recess, he said. 

He’s fully prepared to run for re-election in 2020, he added. “It never crossed my mind not to.” 

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Robin Bravender
Robin Bravender

Robin Bravender was the States Newsroom Washington Bureau Chief from January 2019 until June 2020. She coordinated the network’s national coverage and reported on states’ congressional delegations, federal agencies, the White House and the federal courts. Prior to that, Robin was an editor and reporter at E&E News, a reporter at Politico, and a freelance producer for Reuters TV.