10 Top Actions for Our Next 'Climate President' to Take Immediately
By Andrea Germanos
Over 500 groups on Monday rolled out an an action plan for the next president's first days of office to address the climate emergency and set the nation on a transformative path towards zero emissions and a just transition in their first days in office.
"Swift action to confront the climate emergency has to start the moment the next president enters the Oval Office," said attorney Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity's Climate Law Institute.
The set of 10 actions, which together "form the necessary foundation for the country's true transformation to a safer, healthier, and more equitable world for everyone," are featured on the new Climate President website. The actions — which "touch the lives of every person living in America and those beyond who are harmed by the climate crisis" — can all be taken by the president without Congressional approval, thus can, and should, happen immediately, the document argues.
The new effort is convened by advocacy groups representing a range of issues, including the Center for Biological Diversity, Climate Justice Alliance, Democracy Collaborative, and Labor Network for Sustainability. Other backers include Physicians for Social Responsibility, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, and Dēmos.
The groups' roadmap kicks off with a demand for the next president to declare a national climate emergency under the National Emergencies Act. It includes a demand to direct "relevant federal agencies to reverse all Trump administration executive climate rollbacks and replace with sufficiently strong action."
Asserting authority the National Emergencies Act, Siegel and Center for Biological Diversity energy director Jean Su wrote in a legal analysis supporting the action plan, is necessary in order for the next president to reinstate the crude oil export ban and redirect "military spending towards the construction of clean renewable energy projects and infrastructure."
Declaring a climate emergency, the analysis adds, would also "set the appropriate tone of urgency for climate action."
The other nine steps for the nation's next leader to take within their first 10 days of office are, as noted in the document:
- Keep fossil fuels in the ground.
- Stop fossil fuel exports and infrastructure approval.
- Shift financial flows from fossil fuels to climate solutions.
- Use the Clean Air Act to set a science- based national pollution cap for greenhouse pollutants.
- Power the electricity sector with 100% clean and renewable energy by 2030 and promote energy democracy.
- Launch a just transition to protect our communities, workers and economy.
- Advance Climate Justice: Direct federal agencies to assess and mitigate environmental harms to disproportionately impacted Indigenous Peoples, People and Communities of Color, and low-wealth communities.
- Make polluters pay: Investigate and prosecute fossil fuel polluters for the damages they have caused. Commit to veto all legislation that grants legal immunity for polluters, undermines existing environmental laws, or advances false solutions.
- Rejoin the Paris agreement and lead with science-based commitments that ensure that the United States, as the world's largest cumulative historical emitter, contributes its fair share and advances climate justice.
As part of this overall undertaking, groups say,
the next president must prioritize support for communities that historically have been harmed first and most by the extractive economy, including communities of color, Indigenous communities, and low-wealth communities. The next President must also take special care to ensure that the rights of Indigenous Peoples are upheld, which includes following the Indigenous Principles of Just Transition.
Moreover, climate policies must drive job growth and spur a new green economy that is designed and built by communities and workers and that provides union jobs with family-sustaining wages. These policies must ensure that workers in the energy sector and related industries, whose jobs will be fundamentally transformed, are not abandoned.
According to Anthony Rogers-Wright, policy coordinator for Climate Justice Alliance, "This set of executive actions puts the fossil fuel, and other iniquitous industries that treat our communities like sacrifice zones, on notice, while offering a suite of actions the next president can promulgate on day one to address systemic and institutionalized injustices. At the same time, we're also putting the next Congress on notice to get serious about dismantling this crisis, or the people will circumvent you with all available means."
In addition to executing the 10 steps, the Climate President action plan urges the next president to further tackle the crisis by working with Congress as well as state and local governments on appropriate plans. Those efforts must include working to pass the Green New Deal.
While the Trump administration has taken a sledgehammer to environmental protections, previous administrations also hold blame for failing to sufficiently act on the climate, said Sriram Madhusoodanan, climate campaign director of Corporate Accountability.
"The United States government has long acted to advance the interests of corporations over people, and under Trump the government has lowered the bar even further," he said. "The U.S. continues to act at the behest of big polluters like the fossil fuel industry by ignoring science, blocking climate policy and putting big polluter profit over the needs and demands of people."
"The next administration," added Madhusoodanan, "must start a new chapter in U.S. history, kick polluters out of climate policy-making, make them pay for the damage they've knowingly caused and take every action possible to advance urgently needed, internationally just climate action."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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"These are not just wildfires, they are climate fires," Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington State, said as he stood amid the charred remains of the town of Malden west of Seattle earlier this month. "This is not an act of God," he added. "This has happened because we have changed the climate of the state of Washington in dramatic ways."
'These Aren't Wildfires'<p>Sam Ricketts, who led climate policy and strategy for Governor Jay Inslee's 2020 presidential campaign, tweeted on September 11 that "These aren't wildfires. These are #climatefires, driven by fossil fuel pollution."</p><p>"The rate and the strength and the devastation wrought by these disasters are fueled by climate change," Ricketts told DW of fires that have burnt well over 5 million acres across California, Oregon, Washington State, and into neighboring Idaho. </p><p>In a two-day period in early September, Ricketts notes that more of Washington State burned than in almost any entire fire season until now, apart from 2015. </p><p>California, meanwhile, was a tinderbox after its hottest summer on record, with temperatures in Death Valley reaching nearly 130 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the U.S. National Weather Service. It has been reported as the hottest temperature ever measured on Earth.</p>
<div id="29ad9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8346fe7350e1371d400097cd48bf45a2"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1306969603180879872" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Drought-parched wetlands in South America have been burning for weeks. https://t.co/pjAKdFcKPg #Pantanal https://t.co/ImN2C5vwcp</div> — NASA Earth (@NASA Earth)<a href="https://twitter.com/NASAEarth/statuses/1306969603180879872">1600440810.0</a></blockquote></div><p>As evidenced by Australia's apocalyptic Black Summer of 2019-2020, fires are burning bigger and for longer, with new records set year-on-year. Right now, Brazil's vast and highly biodiverse Pantanal wetlands are suffering from catastrophic fires.</p>
#climatefires Started in Australia<p>Governor Inslee this month invoked the phrase climate fires for arguably the first time in the U.S., according to Ricketts.</p><p>But the term was also used as fires burnt out of control in Australia in late 2019. In the face of a 2000km (more than 1,200 miles) fire front, and government officials and media who <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/trump-climate-change-denial-emissions-environment-germany-fake-heartland-seibt/a-52688933" target="_blank">played down the link to climate change</a>, Greens Party Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and a friend decided that reference to bushfires was inadequate. </p><p>"We both just said, we've got to start calling them climate fires, that's what they are," the Australian Senator told DW.</p><p>Hanson-Young says scientists have been warning for decades that these would be the effects of global heating. "We've been told these kinds of extreme weather events and destruction is what climate change would look like, and it's right here on our doorstep," she said from her home state of South Australia — where by early September fire warnings had already been issued.</p><p>"Calling them climate fires was making it absolutely crystal clear. It is essential that there's no ambiguity," she said </p><p>Having deliberately invoked the term, Hanson-Young soon started to push it on social media via a #climatefires hashtag. </p>
How to Talk About the Urgency of Global Heating<p>The need to use more explicit language when talking about extreme weather events linked to climate change is part of a broader push to express the urgency of global heating. In 2019, activist Greta Thunberg tweeted that the term "climate change" did not reflect the seriousness of the situation. </p><p>"Can we all now please stop saying 'climate change' and instead call it what it is: climate breakdown, climate crisis, climate emergency, ecological breakdown, ecological crisis and ecological emergency?" she wrote. </p><p>"Climate change has for a long time been talked about as something that is a danger in the future," said Hansen-Young. "But the consequences are already here. When people hear the word crisis, they understand that something has to happen, that action has to be taken."</p><p><span></span>Some terms are now used in public policy, with state and national governments, and indeed the EU Parliament, declaring an official climate emergency in the last year. </p>
Words That Reflect the Science<p>But while the West Coast governors all fervently link the fires to an unfolding climate crisis, U.S. President Donald Trump continues to avoid any reference to climate. In a briefing about the fires, he responded to overtures by Wade Crowfoot, California's Natural Resources Secretary, to work with the states on the climate crisis by stating: "It'll start getting cooler. You just watch." Crowfoot replied by saying that scientists disagreed. Trump rejoined with "I don't think science knows, actually." </p><p>It was reminiscent of the anti-science approach to the coronavirus pandemic within the Trump administration, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/donald-trump-admits-playing-down-coronavirus-risks/a-54874350" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">at least publicly</a>. Fossil fuel companies are also benefiting from his disavowal of climate science, with the Trump administration having <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/opinion-trumps-paris-climate-accord-exit-isnt-really-a-problem/a-51124958" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pulled out of the Paris Agreement</a> and reopened fossil fuel infrastructure like the Keystone XL pipeline. </p><p>But the science community has responded, with Scientific American magazine endorsing Trump's Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden, the first presidential endorsement in its 175-year history. </p><p>Hanson-Young says the use of explicit language like climate fires has also been important in Australia due to the climate denialism of politicians and the press, especially in publications owned by Rupert Murdoch. As fires burnt out much of Australia's southeast coast, they were commonly blamed on arson — a tactic also recently used in the U.S.</p>
Climate Rhetoric Could Help Decide Election<p>The language of climate has begun to influence the U.S. presidential election campaign, with Democratic nominee Joe Biden labelling President Trump a "climate arsonist."</p><p>Biden is touting a robust climate plan that includes a 2050 zero emissions target and a return to the Paris Agreement. Though lacking the ambition of The New Green Deal, it has been front and center of his policy platform in recent days, at a time when five hurricanes are battering the U.S. Gulf Coast while smoke blanketing the West Coast spreads all the way to the East. </p><p>People are experiencing the climate crisis in a visceral way and almost universally relate to the language of an emergency, says Ricketts. "They know something is wrong."</p>
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