Climate change the existential threat
Climate change is an indisputable global emergency. We have no time to waste in taking action to protect Americans’ lives and futures. If we’re willing to accept the scientific evidence and meet the challenge of saving our planet, we can also create a thriving, equitable, and globally-competitive clean energy economy that puts American workers and communities first and leaves no one behind.
New Jersey’s 2nd District is blessed to include quaint, historic communities, lush rural farmlands, busy urban centers, and vibrant seaside resorts with exceptional beaches. Yet, climate change poses an existential threat – not just to our local environments, but to our personal health and economic well-being as well.
Our world is warming, faster than it probably ever has. In some cases, predominant weather patterns, climates and natural environments are changing far more quickly than the local wildlife or human societies can adapt. So many of the world’s biggest challenges, from poverty to wildlife extinction, are made more difficult by climate change. And things will only continue to get worse if we do nothing.
Thankfully, we can – and must — do something! I hope you will join with me in pursuing public policies and targeted economic investments to build a clean energy economy that will serve as a role model for the world. We have the knowledge and the technology to reduce our impact on the climate, and ease the pressures on the world’s most vulnerable places, people and wildlife. We just need to make it happen.
Eliminate Our Reliance on Fossil Fuels. It’s way past time we make the commitment to end our reliance on fossil fuels and adopt alternative, renewable sources of energy. To transition away from fossil fuels, we must impose legally binding emissions reduction targets no later than 2025. We must hold polluters accountable, especially those that endanger vulnerable communities, with both meaningful penalties and economic incentives to comply.
Nationally, the time has come to eliminate coal production, institute a carbon tax, ban new fossil fuel permits on our public lands and ensure that fracking is closely regulated. We must ensure that methane leaks are capped and take the leading role in advancing initiatives to achieve a global ban on fossil fuel subsidies. Requiring publicly-traded companies to disclose their climate risks and emissions can help to induce investors to move their money out of fossil fuel companies.
Workers in career transition from the fossil fuel and coal industries must be guaranteed training opportunities and new, clean tech jobs. The past seven years have been the hottest in recorded history and the “heat dome” that seared the central plains and Pacific northwest of the US last summer was deemed by NASA to have been the most anomalous extreme heat event ever observed on Earth. By admitting the scientific reality that we must immediately eliminate the use of the fossil fuels that are killing the planet, let’s also admit that we have alternative, sustainable sources of zero-carbon energy, including: hydroelectric power, tidal, geothermal, solar and wind-turbine technologies.
A Clean Energy Economy. I support the investments needed to create millions of family-supporting and union jobs in clean energy generation, energy efficiency, clean transportation, advanced manufacturing, and sustainable agriculture across America. In just five years, we can install 500 million solar panels, including eight million solar roofs and community solar energy systems, and 60,000 wind turbines, and turn American ingenuity into American jobs by leveraging federal policies to manufacture renewable energy solutions in America.
We can develop and manufacture next-generation technologies to address the climate crisis right here in the United States and do all this with an eye to equity and ownership opportunities for frontline communities. Additionally, all new jobs in the clean energy economy should provide an opportunity to join a union. The clean energy economy must represent the diversity of America. For our economy to thrive, we must invest in the education and training of underrepresented groups, including people of color, low-income Americans, women, veterans, people with disabilities, and unemployed energy workers for jobs in clean energy-related industries.
GM’s recent investment of over $6 billion dollars to retool Detroit’s manufacturing base for full-sized electric pickup trucks proves that there’s plenty of room to grow in the EV market for clean-energy innovation and American industrial revitalization. I think the federal government should require 100% clean energy, American-made, zero-emissions vehicles for all new fleet purchases and should commit to partnering with state and local governments to install at least 500,000 public charging stations from coast to coast.
One rare point of agreement in our current politics is the worrisome state of our nation’s infrastructure and aging electrical grid. Building a modern electric grid begins by making the investment in interstate transmission projects using advanced grid technologies to power communities with clean electricity using renewable energy sources on public lands. These investments will modernize our nation’s workforce, create jobs in disaster response and climate resilience, and revitalize our over-burdened middle class by providing worker protections, good wages, benefits, training and advancement opportunities.
Net-Zero Greenhouse Gas Emissions. As an engineer, I agree with scientists and public health experts that the United States and the world must achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible, and no later than 2050. To do so, we must reestablish strong standards for clean cars and trucks that consider the most recent advances in technology, and accelerate the adoption of zero-emission vehicles in the United States while reclaiming market share for domestically produced vehicles.
We must reduce harmful air pollution and protect our children’s health by transitioning the entire fleet of 500,000 school buses to American-made, zero-emission alternatives within five years. We must lead by example in the public sector by transitioning the three million vehicles in the federal, state, and local fleets to zero-emission vehicles. We must increase investments in public transportation, understanding that the United States currently lags behind many other developed countries in the quality and availability of efficient and accessible public transportation.
To reach net-zero emissions as rapidly as possible, we must commit to eliminating carbon pollution from power plants by 2035 through technology-neutral standards for clean energy and energy efficiency. We must dramatically expand solar and wind energy deployment through community-based and utility-scale systems, including in rural areas like those here in the 2nd District.
By making the American agriculture sector the first in the world to achieve net-zero emissions, we can open up entirely new sources of income for farmers including directly paying farmers to practice techniques to store more carbon in the soil.
Finally, we should set a national goal of achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions for all new buildings by 2030. This will incentivize tens of billions of dollars in private-sector investment to retrofit four million buildings, including helping local governments save money and cut pollution by weatherizing and upgrading energy systems in hospitals, schools, public housing, and municipal buildings.
Building Resilience and Sustainability. It is time to invest in making our water, transportation, building, and energy production infrastructure clean and resilient. We must incentivize our communities to adopt energy-efficient building codes and leverage the federal footprint to model net-zero and 100 percent clean energy building solutions.
We must support locally-driven economic development and commit to directing a significant portion of clean energy and sustainable infrastructure investments to historically marginalized communities. This will create local jobs and reduce energy poverty, build resilience to climate change impacts, prepare for disasters, expand access to green space and outdoor recreation opportunities and improve public health.
Instead of more tax cuts for the wealthiest among us, here’s a thought: let’s invest in modernizing our freight infrastructure, including ports, rail, and maritime freight, in order to reduce air and water pollution, create jobs, and improve our economic competitiveness. I support policies that will substantially improve water security and ecological health through conservation, protection, and maintenance of our water infrastructure, including clean-water systems for home, commercial, industrial, and agricultural use.
We must expand federal programs to help farmers pursue high-productivity, lower-emission, and regenerative agricultural practices in order to help build more resilient local and regional food systems. We must substantially increase investments in voluntary conservation programs, which generate economic and environmental benefits for farmers and their surrounding communities.
I will fight for the support of healthy coastal communities and marine ecosystems to sustain and enhance our economic well-being, including in the fishing, tourism and clean energy industries. I wholeheartedly support the Governor Murphy’s proposed Atlantic Shores’ wind turbines for the generation of clean, carbon-free energy but will fight to ensure that they are moved further offshore and out of sight of our shorelines to the Hudson South Call Area. (Please visit the SaveLBI.org website to read more about the proper placement of these wind turbine towers.)
Protecting Workers and Ensuring Environmental Justice. Every American has the right to breathe clean air, drink clean water, and live without fear of exposure to toxic waste. Like so many crises now confronting the US, the impacts of climate change are not evenly distributed in our society or our economy. Communities of color, low-income families, and Indigenous communities have long suffered disproportionate and cumulative harm from air pollution, water pollution and toxic sites. The severity and impacts of climate change are being felt across the country and the American people are paying the price. I believe we should commit to reducing climate risks and take advantage of the opportunity to rebuild after natural disasters and climate-fueled catastrophes in a resilient, green, and socially-just manner.
Although the youngest generations of Americans have contributed the least to this calamity of climate change, they stand to lose the most as they suffer from the impacts of runaway carbon pollution for decades to come. I applaud the organizing efforts of our young people, union workers, and communities of color and I join them in their efforts to mobilize voters and make the climate crisis a top priority. Put simply, I believe the scientists: the window for unprecedented action is closing, and closing fast – we must act now!
I reject the false choice between growing our economy and combating climate change; we can and must do both at the same time. By targeting relevant investments with the goal of delivering 40 percent of the overall benefits to our disadvantaged and frontline communities. These investments will be directed toward industries that offer clean energy and energy efficiency, clean transit and public transportation and affordable and sustainable housing.
We must mobilize a new generation of young, skilled workers to conserve our public lands, deliver new clean energy, and address the threats of our changing climate. This new workforce will include pre-apprenticeship opportunities, joint labor-management registered apprenticeships for training, and direct-hire programs that put good-paying and union jobs within reach for more Americans.
The creation of an environmental justice fund could be used to make historic investments aimed at eliminating legacy pollution, which disproportionately causes illness and premature death in communities of color, low-income communities, and Indigenous communities.
We must protect our children’s health by replacing lead water-service lines and remediating lead paint in homes and schools; remediate Superfund and other contaminated sites; and ensure that housing and schools have adequate plumbing and safe wastewater disposal systems.
We must empower local communities to become more resilient to the impacts of the climate crisis. We must prioritize disaster preparedness for low-lying vulnerable communities who struggle most to cope so that they can become more resilient to extreme weather events. Black, Latino, and immigrant workers are often on the front lines of disaster relief work with limited worker protections. We must rectify the inequities and inefficiencies of disaster response and ensure the enforcement of worker’s rights.
Finally, I will fight to increase federal levels of support for restoring wetland areas that are critical for protecting our communities from sea level rise and storm surge and also act as natural carbon sinks. Now is the time to make smart investments to reduce the loss of life and property, prevent flooding and adapt to increasingly costly climate impacts.
Restoring American Preeminence in Global Leadership. As the old adage goes: “elections have consequences,” and I am so pleased to see the US rejoining the Paris Climate Accords and stepping back into its traditional role of global leadership in the fight against climate change. At the recent summit in Glasgow, Scotland, the United States and European Union have swayed more than 100 countries into supporting deep cuts in emissions of the highly potent greenhouse gas methane. The United States has taken part in a coalition to fight deforestation which is destroying the world’s carbon sinks. Further, the U.S. delegation helped convince other nations to halt financing for the construction of foreign coal plants, a pact that includes Japan, South Korea and China, all major funders of such projects.
As Democrats, we recognize that climate change poses extremely serious risks to our national economy and the global financial systems as well. We must advance policies that require public companies to disclose climate risks and greenhouse gas emissions in their operations and supply chains and to hold polluters and corporate executives accountable for intentionally hiding or distorting information that adversely affects the health and safety of workers and their communities.
To restore U.S. leadership on climate change, I will work to advance the Biden administration’s efforts to encourage other countries to make their Paris climate targets even more ambitious, while working here to push for US ratification of the Kigali Amendment to phase out hydrofluorocarbons and promote clean energy exports.