The promise and peril of three new national climate proposals
Are they enough?

The promise

In 2017, Senator Bernie Sanders introduced legislation for 100% renewable electricity by 2050 (“100 by ’50 Act”). It was a lifetime ago in terms of climate ambition. 

Now, Joe Biden, the Democratic Party presumptive presidential nominee who received a failing grade on climate report cards from several organizations last year, is calling for 100% clean power by 2035.

Three new national climate proposals have dropped since early June: from the Democratic National Committee Climate Crisis Council, the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, and Joe Biden.

All three platforms make the case for urgent greenhouse gas reductions and connect climate policy to job creation programs including green infrastructure. They also prioritize investments in lower-income communities and promote community resilience to growing extremes, from deadly heatwaves to catastrophic wildfire.

Thankfully these converging crises offer an opportunity for deep systemic change that can benefit everyone. 

Biden’s plan represents the first time ever that a major US political party’s presumptive presidential nominee has embraced promising climate goals including:

  • a $2 trillion investment over four years in infrastructure, transit, buildings, housing, agriculture, and more, creating at least one million new jobs,

  • eliminating carbon pollution from power plants by 2035, 

  • requiring that all new buildings have net-zero emissions by 2030, 

  • installing 500 million solar panels and 60,000 American-made wind turbines over the next 5 years, and 

  • cutting emissions in half from existing buildings with energy efficiency upgrades over the next 4 years. 

But let’s be clear. To enact policy commensurate with our rapidly worsening climate reality, Biden’s plan should at least adopt some of the science-driven goals from the other new national plans, including:

The peril

The critique of all the plans is simple: there is no deadline for ending fossil fuel development, production and use. Without this, we will continue perpetuating climate injustice.

Many communities of color and lower income communities are at the frontline of toxic and polluting fossil fuel infrastructure, with freeways, refineries and oil rigs dangerously close to homes, schools, and hospitals due to historic redlining and redevelopment. They suffer from much lower life expectancy and much higher rates of asthma, cancer, and other diseases than white people and those in wealthier neighborhoods.

And these same communities of color are being hit much harder by the pandemics of COVID19, systemic racism, and climate change.

These communities are the least responsible for climate change but bear the brunt of our unabated fossil fuel consumption. There cannot be climate justice without racial justice. We have the solutions and the know-how. The time is now to start implementing a just and equitable transition away from fossil fuels, partnering with the communities and workers most impacted.

California's Opportunity

Climate ambitions are growing nationally but this moment requires us to be even more bold and visionary.

For our country to achieve even the most conservative outcomes in these three new plans, we in California must significantly advance our climate policy timelines. 

Per the latest science and climate reality, current state targets for 2030 are simply not enough. We must double California’s goals and immediately begin an equitable process for phasing out fossil fuels in the world’s fifth largest economy. Climate-Safe California is a plan to do just that.

Endorse Climate-Safe California if you haven’t yet, and donate today!

Together we will secure the healthy, vibrant, equitable, and climate-safe future that is still within reach if we act boldly today! 

With gratitude,

Ellie Cohen

Thanks to Amanda Begley for her original draft of this piece.



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The Climate Center
PO Box 3785  | Santa Rosa, California 95402
707-525-1665 |

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