The Vision for Equitable Climate Action (VECA) was developed by Climate Action Network (USCAN) in May 2020. It was created over the course of a year, by a diverse team of 176 people from 106 organizations. The VECA platform draws attention not only to the urgency of the climate crisis, but also to the injustice created by climate change and the roadblocks preventing “effective responses” (p. 4). VECA puts forth policy solutions that take these factors into consideration so that we “act equitably and ambitiously to exceed the U.S. goals originally put forward in the Paris Climate Agreement” (p. 5).
When looking toward the future of climate change policy it can be helpful to reflect on the past. In 1999 AAE released The Louisiana Climate Report which reviewed evidence of Global Climate Change from the 1995 IPCC Report and identified five areas of risk for Louisiana - extreme weather, human health, agriculture, forestry, and coastal impacts. The report outlined and examined policy solutions and actions that could reduce or mitigate risks from Climate Change. While many of these solutions took a step in the right direction towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions, reports released more recently have raised the bar, highlighting problems with some of these ideas and suggesting better avenues to pursue.
Chapter three of the 1999 LA Climate Report focuses on opportunities in the energy sector. To reduce greenhouse gas emissions the report recommends initiatives that reduce overall energy demand, increase energy efficiency, and “utiliz[e] less-carbon-intensive or even carbon-free fuel sources.” 20 years later Louisiana and states across the U.S. are increasingly implementing both energy efficiency and demand side management policy initiatives to reduce energy use and carbon dioxide emissions. The Louisiana Public Service Commission (LPSC) currently has two open dockets regarding these initiatives: Docket No. R-35136 Need for Demand Response Programs & Docket No. R-31106 Energy Efficiency Phase II Rule Making.
However, a critical problem with the 1999 LA Climate Report and its recommendations is its hesitancy to move away from carbon fuel sources all together. The report falsely suggests switching from coal or oil to natural gas as an effective way to reduce emissions and calls for policies that promote natural gas. While natural gas is less carbon-intensive, the danger that climate change poses necessitates that we take bigger steps and center policy solutions on carbon-free, non-polluting fuel sources.
VECA calls for a “phase-out of fossil fuels” and “of all subsidies to fossil fuels” with a goal of an “equitable transition to 100% renewable energy by 2030” (p. 6). Importantly, VECA notes that the definition of renewable energy must be amended to ensure that renewable energy is also clean and not “harmful to our communities or the environment” (p. 6). This is an important distinction to ensure just and sufficiently impactful improvements in the Energy Sector.
While the 1999 LA Climate Report suggests an increase in the use of nuclear energy and biomass energy, VECA suggests the opposite, as both can be harmful to the environment and our health. VECA asserts that energy policy plans should not include any new nuclear energy and calls for the “phase out [of] existing nuclear energy, in an equitable manner, as soon as reactors can be replaced by expanding renewables and efficiency and not with fossil fuels” (p. 6). Additionally, VECA urges caution when developing policies promoting Biomass Energy.
The 1999 LA Climate Report highlights key areas where there is potential for policy solutions to the climate crisis in the energy, agriculture, transportation, and forestry sectors in Louisiana. However, many of the solutions put forth - especially in the energy sector - fail to address these climate problems sufficiently. On the other hand, over 20 years later VECA is able to draw on more knowledge, science, and technology and recommend equitable all-encompassing policy solutions that target the root of these problems.
After many years of divisiveness among the left, VECA is just one example of how the once splintered left has begun to unite around a climate policy platform. In a Vox article updated recently, "At Last, A Climate Policy Platform that Can Unite the Left," David Roberts notes that recently there has been“extraordinary burst of policy discussion and development” and that “through many different paths, the factions of the left-of-center coalition have aligned around a fairly robust climate policy platform centered on standards, investments, and justice. They have done so through an inclusive process that has helped build trust and capacity across longstanding lines of division.” If we can work together there is hope that we can make the Vision for Equitable Climate Action a reality.
Check out VECA and the 1999 LA Climate Report to learn more about how our knowledge, science, and technology has changed over the past 21 years and how these reports differ in their approaches to addressing the climate crisis.