2050 zero emissions bill returns to General Assembly

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A controversial climate change bill has been re-introduced that aims to eliminate emissions from vehicles and industries by 2050.

Sponsored by Reps. Debra Heffernan and Sophie Phillips and Sen. Stephanie Hansen, House Bill 99 would set net emissions reduction targets of 50% from the 2005 baseline by 2030 and a 100% net reduction by 2050.

A similar bill met stiff resistance from the business community, with the Carney Administration withdrawing support over issues that included insufficient time to review its provisions, Delaware Public Media reported. The current bill has no Republican co-sponsors. This time around, Carney indicated support for the legislation.

Above photo of Indian River coal-fired power plant that was scheduled for closing but is expected to be around for a few more years, while the grid around it is strengthened. (DNREC photo)

The bill would put into the state code planning process to guide the state to meet those goals and require the state to draft and implement a climate action plan that would serve as a framework to guide state agencies to meet these goals. The plan would be updated every five years.

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Under HB 99, key cabinet-level departments – such as Natural Resources, Transportation, Agriculture, Health and Social Services and others – would appoint climate officers to work with a chief climate officer to update and implement the climate action plan. Reduction strategies would be required to be equitable, complement federal efforts, maintain an adequate and reliable energy supply for Delaware, and not disproportionately impact overburdened and underserved communities, a release stated.

The bill also requires at least one annual public meeting to allow for opportunities for public engagement in the development of the plan.

“In my field, I’ve seen how climate change has impacted bird migration patterns, how turtle migration patterns are changing. These are animals a lot of people really care about, but also don’t realize are dying off because of climate change,” said. Phillips, D-Bear/Christiana. “As a wildlife ecologist, I’m excited to see this moving forward, knowing that we’ve worked with so many stakeholders on this to ensure that everybody was in agreement regarding how this final legislation will look. It’s going to do wonderful things for our state and for our ecosystem.”

2014 Delaware Climate Change Impact Assessment examined Delaware’s past and projected future climate trends. The report detailed how average and extreme temperatures, extreme rainfall and sea level rise are expected to accelerate in the First State as this century wears on, and the public health and infrastructure challenges these situations will create, sponsors noted

According to HB 99, the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control would provide a climate action plan implementation report starting on January 1, 2024 and every two years thereafter. The report would summarize the state’s progress toward meeting targets.

The climate action plan itself would be updated by November 2025 and every five years thereafter.

“Protecting our environment from the harmful impacts of greenhouse gases requires all of us – collectively and as individuals – to take deliberate, meaningful actions that will mitigate the long-term harm we are causing to our planet,” said Hansen, the Senate prime sponsor of House Bill 99. “The legislation Rep. Heffernan and I are introducing today sets aggressive, yet attainable, goals for our state government to hit, and tasks each department with taking responsibility for helping us to get there.”

HB 99 is the result of months of conversations with environmental advocates, Governor Carney’s administration and other stakeholders.

According to polling conducted by The Nature Conservancy in Delaware, 60% of Delawareans think the state should do more to respond to climate change and support setting greenhouse gas reduction targets. About 70% support taking climate change into account when state government makes planning and procurement decisions.

“All Delaware elected officials pledge to ‘respect the right of future generations to share the rich historic and natural heritage of Delaware’ when we take the Oath of Office. But our natural heritage is under threat. As the lowest-lying state in the nation, we’re seeing the effects of climate change and sea level rise on Delaware communities every day. That’s why we’re taking action to reduce greenhouse emissions,” said Gov. John Carney. “The Climate Solutions Act sets clear emissions reductions targets for the state – and lays out a plan for how we meet those goals. This is a necessary step in Delaware’s Climate Action Plan. Thank you to Representative Heffernan, Senator Hansen, and Representative Phillips for introducing this important legislation.”

HB 99 has been assigned to the House Natural Resources & Energy Committee.

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