Rising to the Climate Challenge
The American people are facing one of the greatest tests in our history.
Climate catastrophe is on the horizon, and history will judge us for how we rise to meet this challenge. We have seen this problem evolve from a theory to a reality to, now, an emergency. Climate change impacts not only our coasts, but also farmers, small businesses, homes, and towns across the country. Communities from Pacific Junction, Iowa to Conway, South Carolina already feel the effects of extreme weather and changing rainfall patterns. In South Bend, Mayor Pete had to activate the city’s emergency operations center for 1,000-year and 500-year floods that came less than two years apart.
As temperatures and sea levels rise, so do the costs of food and flood insurance. New health issues from heat, air pollution, and the spread of infectious diseases are growing. From hurricanes devastating Puerto Rico to fires ravaging the Amazon, climate change is affecting everyone, everywhere.
This is the security challenge of our era. And we’re running out of time.
Experts tell us we have 10 years to get on the right path, or global warming will reach catastrophic levels by 2050. For too long, Washington has chosen denial and obstruction. But the timeline that compels us to act isn’t set by Congress—it’s being dictated by science. We must channel all of our energies into a national project—one that unifies Americans from every walk of life around this urgent threat and seizes the tremendous opportunity for a new era of climate action.
We must channel all of our energies into a national project—one that unifies every American, from big cities to rural communities, around this urgent threat and seizes the tremendous opportunity for a new era of climate action.
As big as this crisis is, our ideas and aspirations are big enough to meet it. We aspire to make our society a net-zero emissions one no later than 2050, working aggressively toward immediate targets.
Implementing this vision means tapping into the patriotism of every American and every sector of our economy. It means unleashing the power not only of the federal government, but also of cities, towns, and communities. It means tapping into the potential of rural communities to become part of the solution. It means helping industries that have provided so many families with a livelihood transform into clean energy leaders ready to provide for generations to come.
When we tell our children and grandchildren about what we did in this moment, we must tell them that we worked together, took bold action, and met the greatest challenge of our time—for ourselves and for them.
A proactive approach is crucial to remain competitive in a changing economy.
Transforming our economy and ensuring a clean and prosperous future for our children are audacious goals. They’re also achievable.
The first step of our plan is to work with Congress and existing executive authorities to implement a bold and achievable Green New Deal. We are setting a realistic plan to become a net-zero emissions society no later than 2050 based on a comprehensive set of targets and actions.
To achieve this, we will enact a price on carbon and use the revenue to send rebates to Americans. With money returned directly to their pockets, lower- and middle-class households in particular will experience economic gains.
We will also quadruple federal clean energy R&D funding to invest more than $200 billion over 10 years in developing new technologies. We will build three investment funds to spur clean technology development, including a $250 billion American Clean Energy Bank to fund locally-led clean energy projects, particularly in disadvantaged communities; a 10-year, $250 billion Global Investment Initiative to harness American innovation for clean energy and infrastructure projects around the world and counter China’s Belt and Road initiative; and a $50 billion American Cleantech Fund to fund demonstration projects.
Reflecting our commitment to bold and unifying change, we will create U.S. climate action bonds so that Americans can fund clean energy and resilience projects. We will decarbonize our economy through a Clean Electricity Standard, a Zero-Emissions Vehicles Standard, and a Clean Industrial Technology Standard. These investments will create 3 million high-quality jobs with strong worker protections by building a net-zero emissions grid, transportation sector, and building sector. We will support farmers as leaders on stewardship and conservation in the fight against climate change by paying them to capture carbon and fixing the Renewable Fuel Standard.
In addition to bolstering clean technologies, we will end subsidies for fossil fuel companies and close public lands to new fossil leases.
In addition to bolstering clean technologies, we will end subsidies for fossil fuel companies and close public lands to new fossil leases. And we must provide transition assistance for displaced workers and communities, through a 10-year, $200 billion fund for training and transition. We must simultaneously guarantee a robust social safety net, making retirement and health benefits available to all who want them. We will also offer loan guarantees to companies for renovating existing plants and assembly lines to build new low-carbon products and create jobs in their communities.
From sea-level rise to extreme heat, no region of the United States is immune to the impacts of climate change–many of which are already here and will continue for the foreseeable future. Climate-exacerbated disasters have cost more than $500 billion over the past four years, with the federal government funding a large portion of disaster recovery efforts. Often, low-income, Black, and Latinx Americans are hit first and hardest.
We must protect communities by establishing next-generation Regional Resilience Hubs to help communities understand and manage their risks. The Hubs would be complemented by $5 billion per year in Resilient America Grants to support building resilient infrastructure and set a national climate risk reduction standard for federal investments. We will create a National Catastrophic Disaster Insurance program to provide stability to individuals and communities who experience the major disruptions caused by climate change and other natural risks such as earthquakes. And we will prioritize equitable disaster preparedness and relief so that all communities get the resources they need to prepare for, recover from, and rebuild from disasters, particularly communities of color; people with disabilities; seniors; and other populations especially vulnerable to climate impacts.
But joining global coalitions is not sufficient. We must also restore American leadership and put the world on a path to meet the Paris Agreement’s goals. We will rebuild our most important alliances and heal internal divisions by bringing together Americans right here at home. We will change how the federal government works on climate change solutions, sets aggressive standards and goals, and empowers state and local governments. We will convene local and regional leaders from around the country and world in a Pittsburgh Summit aimed at developing buy-in for decisive and bold climate action at a local level.
Joining global coalitions is not sufficient. We must also restore American leadership.
In the absence of congressional action on climate change, we will use every executive authority available to reduce emissions and require resilience in infrastructure. We will increase the climate planning and regional readiness budget at the Department of Defense (DOD) to allow our military leaders to build resilience for military bases and installations. We will also elevate and integrate climate security and resilience at DOD by creating a senior climate security role in the Secretary of Defense’s office responsible for managing climate security risks.
In the history of humanity, we have faced few crises like the threat posed by our changing climate. But the magnitude of the crisis can also galvanize us to rise to the occasion and build a safer, healthier, and more prosperous world. If we come together and harness the power of every American—from scientists and growers to students and auto workers—we will be proud of our response to this emergency.
Climate change is not partisan–it is make or break. If you believe we must take immediate action on climate change, text CLIMATE to 25859.
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