The Trump administration isn’t about renewable energy, but thanks to the Washington, D.C., city council, it could soon be running on clean power. The council passed one of the most ambitious climate bills in the country on Tuesday requiring the District to get all of its energy from renewables by 2032.
The bill was introduced in July by City Councilmember Mary Cheh and was spurred along by a group of more than 110 environmental, justice and faith groups as well as unions. While it includes a host of new climate rules, chief among them is the renewable requirement. Until Tuesday, the city’s renewable portfolio standard required utilities serving the city to increase their share of renewably generated electricity to 50 percent by 2032. The new bill ups that to 100 percent.
The ambition doesn’t stop in 2032 either, with the bill including a mandate specifically for increasing the share of solar power through 2041. It will now go to Mayor Muriel Bowser’s desk, and she has 10 days to decide whether to sign it or not. Last year, she pledged to reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions 100 percent by 2050.
“The science tells us we need to reduce our emissions upwards of 40 percent by 2030,” Jamie DeMarco, a state policy coordinator with Citizens Climate Lobby, said a press conference while noting that Washington, D.C., is the only place in the country with a binding target in line with the science. “This is the strongest climate legislation anywhere in the country,” he said.
The science DeMarco referred to is the recent United Nations report showing that reducing global carbon emissions 45 percent in the coming decade is essential to keep the planet from warming more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. Washington, D.C.’s emissions are a small part of the pie, but every action matters. And even if the move is largely symbolic in the scheme of global emissions, there’s also the chance that it spreads.
With the White House controlled by a climate denier, the chances of passing federal climate legislation are about as good as Washington’s football team winning the Super Bowl this year (those odds are not good). While a Green New Deal may someday come to fruition, action is needed immediately, a reality which has left cities and states to pick up the slack. And they’ve responded.
A number of states have bumped up their plans to install more offshore wind. Cities have been divesting their pension funds from fossil fuels. California recently set a zero-emission bus public transit target for 2040 has plans to get all its electricity from renewables by 2045. Washington, D.C.’s new bill just speeds up that timetable, with the hope that others will follow suit.
“This is only the beginning,” Reverend Yearwood, the head of the Hip Hop Caucus, said at the press conference after the bill was passed. “We must take this movement all around the country and model what has happened in D.C.”