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Former US energy secretary unveils 'Green Real Deal' climate action framework

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Former US energy secretary unveils 'Green Real Deal' climate action framework

Former U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz unveiled a plan for taking "pragmatic actions" on climate change, a strategy he said offers a more detailed path for lowering carbon emissions than the sweeping Green New Deal proposal backed by some progressive U.S. lawmakers.

The so-called "Green Real Deal" framework, which Moniz introduced during a July 31 event hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, could provide an outline for policymakers and regulators looking to craft more bipartisan climate solutions. The 29-page framework consists of five broad principles for accelerating deep decarbonization by midcentury, the point at which the United Nations has said the world must achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

The first principle is that technology, business model and policy innovations are essential to lowering emissions. To that end, the Green Real Deal supports past recommendations to double or triple the current $5 billion-per-year funding for the U.S. Department of Energy's energy innovation portfolio. Areas with breakthrough potential include research into long-duration energy storage, advanced nuclear fission and fusion power, carbon capture technologies and carbon removal systems, the framework said.

Second, the Green Real Deal calls for building "broad and inclusive coalitions" of businesses, consumers, governments and advocacy groups to ensure all members of society benefit from the transition to a low-carbon economy. The third principle is that social equity must be part of any global warming solution, with the costs of inaction on climate change frequently hitting low-income and other vulnerable communities the hardest, the report said.

The Green Real Deal's fourth and fifth tenets, respectively, are that climate solutions must address all greenhouse gas-emitting sectors and that optionality and flexibility are needed for technologies, policies and regions of the country.

The principles form the basis of eight key elements that Moniz said will help "forge broadly acceptable, equitable, and practical solutions" on climate change. Those elements include fair and effective carbon pricing; sustainable and secure clean energy supply chains, including for critical minerals needed for wind, solar and battery technologies; and large-scale carbon management systems that can cut emissions from natural gas- and coal-fired power plants.

"The transition to a deeply decarbonized economy may not necessarily require the elimination of fossil fuels," the framework said. "Natural gas, in particular, will continue to play an important role in providing dispatchable electric power generation and high-temperature industrial process heat — applications that are not readily amenable to non-fossil fuel options."

The Green Real Deal was developed by the Energy Futures Initiative, which Moniz established to advise policymakers and industry on cleaner, more affordable and secure energy solutions. Ahead of the framework's July 31 release, Moniz co-authored an opinion piece in March advocating a Green Real Deal. The op-ed drew praise from lawmakers including U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

Manchin, a moderate Democrat from a coal-producing state, is among the members of Congress who have panned the competing Green New Deal climate proposal. The Green New Deal calls for a 10-year national mobilization to meet 100% of U.S. electricity demand from renewable, clean or emissions-free sources. The plan also demands jobs and healthcare guarantees for all Americans.

Critics have said the Green New Deal lacks specifics on implementation and would restrict or eliminate reliance on fossil fuels while causing energy prices to soar. U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., introduced a nonbinding resolution advocating a Green New Deal, but the measure stalled in the Senate and has yet to come up for a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives.