U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Monday unveiled a sweeping proposal to combat climate change, the most ambitious and detailed “Green New Deal” plan to date.
The proposal aims to create 20 million new jobs by transforming the nation’s energy sector, achieving 100 percent renewable energy by 2030 and “complete decarbonization” by 2050.
The term “Green New Deal” has become popular with American progressives who are demanding serious action to mitigate the climate crisis. It refers to the “New Deal” programs of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, which saw major public investment in infrastructure that helped raise the country out of the Great Depression in the 1930s.
Noting that the scientific community has been clear that countries have only about 11 years to overhaul their energy systems to avert irreparable, catastrophic climate change, Sanders is calling for a mass public mobilization on a similar scale.
For precedent, the Senator also cites the nation-wide efforts made during the Second World War.
“The United States came together, and within three short years restructured the entire economy in order to win the war and defeat fascism,” the plan says.
If elected, a Sanders administration would seek to invest $16.3 trillion toward these efforts “with an explicit choice to include black, indigenous and other minority communities who were systematically excluded in the past.”
The plan also calls for a “just transition,” prioritizing fossil fuel industry workers who rely on the status quo to make a living. In addition to prioritizing them for job placement, workers displaced during the transition would receive five years of wage guarantees, housing assistance, job training, health care, and pension support, and early retirement support for those who choose it.
‘Whatever it Takes’
Because these investments would stir new economic activity, the campaign claims it will “pay for itself over 15 years.”
In the shorter term, the investments would be offset by litigation, fees, and taxes aimed at the fossil fuel industry, “making [them] pay for their pollution.” Sanders also calls for a reduction in military spending and higher taxes on the country’s top income earners.
“We will do whatever it takes to defeat the threat of climate change,” the proposal says, adding that “the cost of inaction is unacceptable.”
Sanders’ version of the Green New Deal also calls for public ownership of America’s utilities, making electricity “virtually free” for Americans by 2035. In places like Northern California, for-profit public utilities companies like PG&E have come under widespread criticism for rate hikes and safety failures.
The United States is currently the only country in the world that is not a party to the Paris Climate Accord after President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the agreement shortly after taking office. Like the rest of the field, Sanders would immediately rejoin the agreement and reassert American leadership in the global effort to deal with climate change.