Since 1970, Earth Day has served as a celebration of the gift of our planet which makes life possible, and, more recently, as an acknowledgement of the environmental threats that affect us all. The urgency of addressing one of these threats — climate change — and the need to transition to cleaner sources of energy is demonstrated in the latest report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). “We are on a fast track to climate disaster; major cities under water, unprecedented heat waves, terrifying storms, widespread water shortages, the extinction of a million species of plants and animals,” Secretary-General of the UN Antonio Guterres proclaimed upon the report’s release. “This is not fiction or exaggeration; it is what science tells us will result from our current energy policies.”
In reviewing the evidence, the IPCC authors found that while greenhouse gas emissions had reached a historic high in the last decade, developments in renewable energy technology, policies to improve efficiency, and a new focus on preventing ecosystem destruction had begun to “bend the curve,” slowing the growth in emissions. The IPCC report reminds us that, if we act quickly, we have the tools we need to tackle the climate crisis — the major roadblock to success is a lack of long-term certainty and predictability in our policies.
It’s fitting, then, that the Earth Day 2022 theme is “Invest in our Planet.” The message from Earth Day’s planners this year is what the clean energy industry has said for years: Smart companies know that it is no longer a choice between caring for the environment and growing long-term profits — clean energy is the path to prosperity.
Today, clean energy is the cheapest form of electricity. There’s now more than 200 gigawatts of clean power operating in the U.S. — enough to power 56 million homes. Wind and solar are the #1 and #2 choice of new utility-scale power generation across all technology types. Clean power supports more than 415,000 good jobs across all 50 states. U.S. clean energy jobs provide earnings +25% above the national median wage and outpace fossil fuel extraction/generation jobs by three-to-one, employing more Americans than middle or elementary school teachers, bankers, farmers, or real estate agents.
The clean power industry has developed and is following a vision for driving a clean energy transformation which will help us meet most of the targets set under the Paris Climate Agreement to reach a majority renewable energy future by 2050 and lower emissions from the electric sector by 76 percent below 2005 values. Reaching these ambitious but achievable goals will create more than half a million good-paying jobs in over 35 different occupations across the country.
But we can’t do it alone. We need government to do its part. Legislation that would provide critical investments to deploy more clean energy at a faster pace is stalled in Congress. Such legislation would help spur new private investment, accelerate the development of projects and deliver over 1 million clean energy jobs by 2030. It would help create growth for local communities and put the country on a path to achieve the goal of 100% carbon-free electricity by 2035 — which will require doubling the size of the electricity grid and tripling the amount of clean energy carried by it. This key opportunity for U.S. investment in our planet has sat waiting for months in the Senate, while each month of delay means an estimated $2 billion in lost economic activity and untold climate harm.
And while addressing climate change is perhaps one of the greatest opportunities of our age, the transformation to a clean energy economy also represents another unparalleled opportunity — the opportunity to create a better future for everyone through economic growth and opportunities for investment and innovation. To that end, ACP and the clean energy industry launched our Energy Transition for All initiative, created to scale best practices and drive a well-orchestrated cross-sector approach to achieve even greater impact for the communities most impacted by the transition. The clean energy industry is poised to invest in our planet, and in our people.
America’s clean power sector is working to meet our nation’s power needs for the future while also striving to solve the world’s most pressing environmental threat – climate change and carbon emission reduction. This Earth Day, we are reminded that what we do with our time on this planet has lasting impact, and the clean energy industry can be especially proud of the future that we are working toward.
Heather ZichalChief Executive Officerceo@cleanpower.org