Framework for a Justice-Centered Climate Plan
July 25, 2019
Last year, my home state burned. The Camp Fire in Northern California and the Woolsey Fire in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties scorched more than 250,000 acres, taking lives, destroying homes, and sending toxic smoke into the atmosphere. These wildfires weren’t the only climate change related tragedy to hit the United States in 2018 — disasters in the form of historic hurricanes, winter storms, and droughts devastated many American communities. In total, these events cost our country $91 billion and took the lives of hundreds of Americans.
If the climate crisis remains unchecked, more families across the country will be at risk. Rising seas will deplete drinking water in southern Florida and displace millions. Fires will continue scorching the West. Flooding across the Midwest will drown more crops, making farming harder and food scarcer. Increased maritime access to previously frozen Arctic waters will heighten foreign tensions and undermine our national security. And these impacts will be felt many times over in other nations around the world.
The Commander in Chief is supposed to protect the safety and security of America. To do that, it is necessary that we tackle the climate crisis head-on. These dangers have only grown more dire as our leaders ignore reality. Climate change is a crisis as big and urgent as any other that this country and our planet has faced. The United States must acknowledge the scale of this emergency and rapidly implement large-scale transformations of our economy and development paths.
Our country needs a strong president who prioritizes people and justice. My Justice-Centered Climate Plan presents a bold and actionable path forward. It responds to the climate crisis we face, reestablishes the United States as a global leader, and works to confront and correct our past mistakes to create a more inclusive, sustainable, and prosperous future.
On day one of my presidency, I will declare the climate crisis a national emergency. I will direct each agency in the administration to take action to curtail the climate crisis. Every part of the executive branch of government will bring its rules, purchasing decisions, and agency staff in line with our global and domestic science-backed climate goals.
In addition to taking bold executive actions, I will challenge Congress to pass vital legislation to enact a Green New Deal and provide additional funding to protect the country against climate and weather-related natural disasters. If Congress refuses to act expeditiously, I will not hesitate to use the emergency powers of the presidency to protect the American public from the climate crisis, just as I would use those powers to protect our country from a hostile military invasion.
We have the tools to lessen the effects of this climate crisis. Electricity generated by wind and solar is now cheaper than fossil fuels. New, American-made, affordable electric vehicles are entering the market and charging stations are becoming more accessible. Policies proven to cut pollution will spur this growth and open new markets. We can boost local economies, support diverse businesses, create millions of good jobs, and ensure the United States remains globally competitive by addressing this crisis.
We can make our own nation safer and more just, even as we work globally to keep our planet’s forests and oceans healthy, stop fossil fuel use, and launch the transformations we all need to survive. Other countries are now driving the effort to meet the targets established by the Paris Agreement. We must not only join them — we must lead. But to earn the moral authority to lead globally on climate, we must focus on justice as we tackle climate change at home.
We must, at every stage, work to correct the long history of systemic injustices against those who benefit least from the industrial activities destroying our climate and who bear the heaviest burdens of our dependence on oil, coal, and gas. While climate change affects us all, it hurts low income communities and communities of color first and worst. The interconnected problems of poverty, systemic racism, and pollution demand urgent solutions.
This Justice-Centered Climate Plan will provide clean air and water, honor the contributions and sacrifice of workers in fossil fuel industries, and prioritize justice for communities that have been treated as environmental dumping grounds for far too long. We will put people and communities before polluting corporations through a truly inclusive planning process. We will make sure Americans have all necessary resources to support stronger, more resilient communities.
This is a truly global crisis, and it is long past time for the United States to take the lead in solving it. Only by facing this crisis together — at the global scale and with the immediate urgency it demands — will we have hope of building a safer, more sustainable, and more secure society for everyone.
I. Justice-Based Pollution Reduction Targets and Actions
The United States must recognize both our historic responsibility for producing the bulk of planet-heating pollution and the great opportunity to lead the world by responding to this crisis.
Our country has unparalleled resources and economic potential. We must get to work, so our homes, hospitals, universities, businesses, transportation systems, manufacturing, and agriculture operations are powered with 100% clean energy. This work will help address the climate crisis, spur economic growth, create new jobs, reestablish the United States as a global economic and moral leader, and ensure every American can breathe clean air and drink clean water.
It is critical to end our dependence on fossil fuels and drive all forms of global warming pollution to net-zero by 2045. Leading states and cities have already committed to this ambitious climate target. We must also tackle asthma-causing and toxic air pollution, so every American can breathe safe and healthy air by 2030. The same smokestacks, tailpipes, and other sources that are wreaking havoc on our climate are also making Americans sick, primarily in low-income and underinvested communities, tribal communities, and communities of color. We can’t outsource our obligations to cut pollution to other countries, other states, and other neighborhoods.
To achieve scientifically-backed, justice-based pollution reduction targets that will grow our economy and ensure American prosperity, my plan will:
- Eliminate fossil fuel pollution from all sectors to achieve a 100% clean energy economy and net-zero global warming pollution by no later than 2045. This means massive and immediate mobilization to decarbonize every sector in an equitable way, including transitioning to clean electricity, setting strong standards for new buildings, retrofitting existing buildings to improve indoor air quality and energy efficiency, accelerating electric vehicle deployment and charging infrastructure, eliminating the use and production of global warming super-pollutants, and efforts to expand new development while meeting pollution reduction goals.
- Eliminate asthma-causing and toxic air pollution from diesel engines, power plants, and other major sources as soon as possible, but no later than 2030, and ensure that every American has access to clean, healthy drinking water.
- Strengthen our natural systems and increase access to outdoor recreation, so every American has a park or natural area within a half-mile of their home.
- Invest in secondary and professional education programs and pre-apprenticeship programs for new students and existing workers.
- Triple federal funding for climate science; research, development, and deployment of advanced clean technology for manufacturing, aviation, agriculture, biofuels, and soil health; and advanced research and warning systems for extreme weather.
- Help cities and regions establish climate-smart plans for local transportation, affordable housing, building pollution reductions, energy efficiency improvements, local and regenerative food and water systems, and holistic solutions to reduce the need for long, polluting commutes, while preventing the displacement of existing residents.
- Ensure all Americans can access safe, convenient, and zero-emission transportation choices in urban, rural, and suburban areas by accelerating the transition toward zero-tailpipe-emission cars, trucks, and buses; increasing the availability of electric vehicle charging infrastructure; and making forms of active transportation, such as walking, safer.
- Protect and ensure affordability of energy, transportation, food, and clean water by rapidly scaling up energy efficiency standards, deploying smart financing for community adoption of clean technology, and providing bill and income assistance for lower-income individuals and families.
II. A People-Powered Economy: Grassroots Planning and Civilian Climate Corps
To transform our economy to be more just and more inclusive as we address the climate crisis, we will need approaches that work in every community. The people best equipped to understand the unique needs of America’s diverse urban, rural, and suburban areas are the people who live there. They are also the best able to implement the right solutions for their own community, and they deserve to enjoy the job creation and other benefits of these efforts.
That’s why my plan will first and foremost ensure communities have the tools, training, and dedicated resources to lead the clean energy and healthy climate transformation from the ground up. I will create the infrastructure in our government to listen, respond, and act on recommendations from community voices and coordinate among all branches and levels of government.
To create a grassroots-powered approach to lifting up every community, I will:
- Issue $250 billion over the course of ten years in new National Healthy Communities Climate Bonds and call on Congress to fully fund the creation of a Civilian Climate Corps, which will create 1 million jobs for young Americans, underemployed people, and displaced workers, and will help diversify state and local economies currently dependent on fossil fuel revenues.
- Support the development of community-led plans with tailored local approaches for every state and US territory to prioritize justice, and lift up the voices of all Americans to address the unique needs of their communities. We will especially focus on communities bearing high burdens in both pollution and poverty , as well as areas financially dependent on fossil fuel extraction. We will support the development of new strategies to reduce pollution by investing in smarter systems and better infrastructure that will increase social cohesion and equity.
- Appoint a cabinet-level officer to lead and coordinate federal, state, and local efforts to meet our climate targets and establish a high-level task force of mayors, governors, tribal leaders, and community representatives. This task force will inform US climate action and help us achieve international climate commitments.
- Establish a transparent process for adapting and updating plans and processes to reflect new information and changing needs expressed by affected community members.
- Build up community prosperity and ensure economic diversification by adopting wealth-building strategies for diverse businesses nationally. This includes implementing strong targets for procurement from local and diverse businesses; rewarding companies that adhere to fair labor practices and employ a union workforce; advancing community-led economic development strategies by supporting projects that include local hire, targeted hiring, and first-source hiring requirements; and building community benefit agreements in to federal projects.
III. Transform the Extraction Economy into a Regenerative Economy: Fair Wages and Employment in the Clean Energy Economy and Putting Public Lands to Work for the Public
For too long, corrupt polluters have profited by taking and exploiting our shared resources. It’s time to move beyond this toxic and dangerous economic model. We must put our public resources to work for the people. We must invest in workers, families, and towns, as well as honor those who have devoted their lives to keeping our lights on and our vehicles moving. We can build local economies that create wealth and opportunity for generations to come.
To build an inclusive, regenerative economy, my plan will:
- Invest $50 billion to ensure former fossil fuel workers and their communities have the healthcare, wages, and benefits necessary to thrive in a cleaner, more inclusive economy. This includes fully funding the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, the Appalachian Regional Commission, and other programs to support coal miners and their communities.
- Protect workers entering new industries in a diversifying economy by guaranteeing the right to retain or transfer union membership and establish new unions; ensuring access and appropriate skills training for good, local jobs; developing targeted hiring policies to connect veterans and people entering or reentering the workforce with good jobs; supporting local and diverse businesses; and holding polluting corporations to their legal and moral obligations to the workers and regions that have supported them.
- End all forms of government giveaways to big polluters at the expense of American taxpayers, including unlimited and unpriced global warming pollution, direct subsidies, tax breaks, lax and under-enforced environmental and worker protections, and the sale of public resources at giveaway prices.
- Restore and expand our national parks and monuments and protect public lands, waters, and coastal areas that belong to every American.
- Keep publicly-owned oil, coal, and gas in the ground by stopping the expansion of fossil fuel leases and establishing a careful process to wind down federal onshore and offshore fossil fuel production.
- Scale up beneficial uses of public lands, waters, and coastal and ocean zones, by expanding clean energy production from solar power and onshore and offshore wind; establishing regenerative food production standards on federal grazing lands; expanding sustainable fisheries practices, marine protected areas, and marine and coastal monuments; and managing forest and ocean systems to maximize carbon sequestration and ecosystem benefits.
IV. Invest in America: Climate-Smart Infrastructure, Fair Labor and Clean Product Purchase Standards, and Redirecting Capital to Just and Clean Investments
Every decision our government makes about infrastructure, purchasing, contracting, and investing taxpayer dollars must be aligned with achieving our climate targets, protecting workers’ right to unionize, growing good jobs, and helping Americans build inclusive and prosperous communities. We have one chance to invest in the infrastructure that will serve our country in a warmer world, help us limit the effects of climate change, and showcase American leadership. Both government funding and private capital must play a major role. We must establish clear goals and rules for how investments flow to avoid the same decisions that have created extreme inequality and unjust environmental degradation.
To ensure we are building a fair and sustainable country equipped for the 21st century, my plan will:
- Dedicate $2 trillion in federal funding over ten years, mobilizing trillions more in private capital, to long-overdue investments in America’s infrastructure, including investments in clean transportation, water, operational systems, the energy grid, farms and rural development, building retrofits, maintenance, affordable housing, universal broadband, and more.
- Align government operations, purchases, and contracts with our justice-centered approach to meet our climate targets by ending the buildout of new fossil fuel infrastructure, approving new federal infrastructure permits and investment only for projects that do not hinder our progress towards achieving net-zero global warming pollution by 2045, requiring projects that include federal investments to adopt fair labor standards, instituting a federal “Buy Clean” standard, and incentivizing innovation in clean manufacturing and energy.
- Require pension funds, institutional investors and publicly traded companies to disclosure their fossil fuel holdings and perform a risk assessment of how climate change affects their business and internalize costs of climate change.
- Prioritize our local economies and American businesses by supporting the creation of Community Green Banks, establishing Green New Deal Investment Zones, and developing banking, investment, and insurance requirements that will shift funding from fossil fuels toward what actually matters — clean air, healthy families, and rapid commutes.
- Protect residents rights’ to self-determination as investments are made in their communities, ensuring that people living in areas heavily burdened by pollution and climate impacts are not displaced by development and retain a right to return to their communities if they have been displaced by climate-related disasters.
- Implement federal and state incentives to establish the U.S. as the top exporter of clean energy technology globally — clean energy built in America serving the world.
V. Climate-Secure America: Build Resilience to Disasters, Protect Our Troops and National Security, and Restore America’s Global Leadership
Climate-related disasters are already affecting every state in America. In the past five years, 47 states have declared states of emergency due to climate and weather related disasters, and 49 have needed disaster-relief aid from FEMA. Our military bases at home and abroad are at significant risk from sea-level rise and extreme weather, and American troops are at their most exposed to violent attack when delivering convoys of oil to supply remote operations.
Globally, increased droughts and other climate-related disasters are spurring more violent conflict and increasingly volatile political situations. Hundreds of millions of people around the world risk losing their homes and livelihoods to sea-level rise, extreme weather, and political conflict driven by climate impacts.
The Commander in Chief must protect us from the immediate dangers of climate change, and ensure our country’s prosperity. To create a safer, more secure America, while reestablishing the United States as a global economic and moral leader, my plan will:
- Secure armed forces and military bases against extreme weather through smart infrastructure investments and planning, and eliminate risks to military personnel that arise out of our reliance on fossil fuels by transitioning to a safe and clean economy.
- Improve our systems for disaster prevention, resiliency, response, and recovery through community-led planning processes; mutual aid commitments among communities; investments in climate-smart mobile and distributed power, food, water, and transportation infrastructure; and by establishing and training a full-time Civilian Climate Corps.
- Support and expand resilient social infrastructure with an organized, well-trained, and fully-funded network of social service providers, including nurses, hospital workers, mental health workers, and food, housing, and animal care providers, by making training, resources, education, and pre-apprenticeship programs available through the Civilian Climate Corps.
- Restore America to its position as a global leader and an indispensable party to global efforts to take on the climate crisis by redoubling our commitment to the Paris Agreement, the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, the Green Climate Fund, Sustainable Development Goals of the UN Development Programme, and other vital international agreements.
- Join the international Powering Past Coal Alliance, work to end global finance for coal-fired power plants, and strengthen and improve accountability procedures for enforcing human rights and environmental requirements for projects that receive funding through the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and other international finance mechanisms.
- Lead a global plan to help prevent, address, and reduce climate-related disasters, including supporting pre-disaster resilience planning and investment, and helping to protect the human rights of the growing number of people displaced by these disasters domestically and globally.
- Reduce the threat of global conflict and support other nations to achieve prosperity without fossil fuels by meeting and increasing our investment in international clean energy and sustainable development systems, eliminating our demand for fossil fuels, leading a worldwide transition to clean energy, and using the global purchasing power of the United States and international trade agreements to send a clear signal that the fossil fuel era is coming to an end and the clean energy age has begun.