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‘Finally Some Good News Out of Washington’: Nation’s Capital to Go 100% Renewable by 2032

Renewable Energy
DC will get 100 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2032. Glow Images, Inc / Getty Images

Washington, DC made history Tuesday when its council voted unanimously to transition to 100 percent renewable energy by 2032, the Huffington Post reported. The commitment is part of the Clean Energy DC Omnibus Act of 2018, which also includes measures to reduce emissions from buildings and transportation and gives the nation's capital the most comprehensive climate policy of any city in the country.


"This bill should be a boost to advocates nationwide," DC campaign director for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network Action Fund Camila Thorndike said in a statement reported by the Huffington Post. "Finally some good news out of Washington. We did it."

Campaigners and supporters touted the bill as an act of defiance against one of DC's most famous residents, current President Donald Trump, who is infamous for denying climate change and promoting fossil fuels.

"The guy in the house a couple of blocks away has abdicated complete leadership in how we are moving our country and our world forward," Democratic Councilmember Charles Allen told WAMU 88.5. "The folks on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue don't seem to care that much. So the responsibility has fallen to our cities and our states to act."

That rebuke is not merely symbolic. Federal buildings, including the White House, will need to follow the stricter energy efficiency standards that the new law has empowered a task force to draft for all existing DC buildings, the Huffington Post reported. The bill also includes an ambitious transportation goal: all public transportation and private vehicle fleets, including ride-share programs Uber and Lyft, must be carbon free by 2045.

The bill should reduce the city's total greenhouse gas emissions 42 percent by 2032, WAMU 88.5 reported. This brings it close to the recommendation in the latest International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. That report found that to cap warming at 1.5 degrees, global emissions would have to fall to 45 percent of 2010 levels by 2030.

The bill, introduced by Democratic Councilmember Mary Cheh, would have originally reduced total emissions by 50 percent, but that goal was weakened somewhat after compromises with utility companies, which ultimately backed the current version of the bill. Activists said the companies did so in part to avoid a carbon tax, an alternative policy supported by some council members.

"We built such a thunderhead of political pressure for ambitious and comprehensive climate policy that not doing anything was not an option," Thorndike told WAMU 88.5.

The bill also doubled DC's ambitions. Previously, the city had pledged to be 50 percent renewable by 2032.

"This bill is historic," Cheh told WAMU 88.5 before the vote. "It will place the District of Columbia at the national forefront in efforts to reduce greenhouse gases and achieve 100 percent renewable electricity."

Currently, 90 cities have pledged to go 100 percent renewable by 2030, but no state has set a goal as ambitious as DC's within as short a timeframe.

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"The rapid pace of labour-saving technology brings into focus the possibility of a shorter working week for all, if deployed properly," Autonomy Director Will Stronge said, The Guardian reported. "However, while automation shows that less work is technically possible, the urgent pressures on the environment and on our available carbon budget show that reducing the working week is in fact necessary."

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