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Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand Announces $10 Trillion Plan to Flight Climate Crisis

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U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand speaking with attendees at the 2019 California Democratic Party State Convention at the George R. Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco. Gage Skidmore / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) is the latest 2020 Democratic primary contender to announce an ambitious plan to tackle the climate crisis.


Gillibrand's plan, published on Medium Thursday, would mobilize $10 trillion in private and public funds to pay for a Green New Deal to achieve 100 percent renewable energy within 10 years and net zero emissions across the economy by 2050.

"Climate action should be this generation's moonshot," Gillibrand wrote. "To save our planet, the energy, talents, and commitment of every American will be required, from our farmers and workers to our scientists and entrepreneurs. The next president has to be willing to take bold leaps to lead this effort and stand up to the climate change deniers, polluters, and oil and gas special interests. I will, because we can't afford not to."

The plan has seven major components.

1. Achieve Net-Zero Carbon Emissions: In addition boosting renewable energy, Gillibrand's plan would focus on transportation, with a goal of net zero vehicle emissions by the end of the decade. She would also increase the number of electric vehicle charging stations and improve infrastructure for public transit, bicycles and pedestrians.

2. Hold Polluters Accountable: Gillibrand would create a Climate Change Mitigation Trust Fund, paid for with a tax on fossil fuel production, that would generate $100 billion a year for adaptations to sea level rise and extreme weather events. She would also put a starting price on carbon of $52 per metric ton. The carbon tax would generate an estimated $200 billion a year for renewable energy development.

3. Phase Out Fossil Fuels: Gillibrand would end oil and gas drilling and fracking both offshore and on public lands and strengthen regulation for extraction on private land. She would also work with Congress to end fossil fuel subsidies.

4. Build a Green Jobs Economy: Gillibrand's plan would create a "green jobs recovery fund" to help communities impacted by the loss of fossil fuel jobs to transition to clean energy jobs. She would also work to provide access to these new jobs to impoverished communities, depopulating rural areas and frontline communities.

5. Lead the World on Clean Energy: The plan also calls for the U.S. to challenge other countries to a clean energy "space race" in order to harness innovation towards global solutions to the climate crisis. She also said her administration would rejoin the Paris agreement and help countries that had done less to cause the climate crisis adapt to its consequences.

6. Protect Clean Air and Clean Water: Gillibrand also promised to strengthen the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. As a senator, she passed legislation to address the contamination of drinking water near military bases with PFAS and she promised that, as president, she would work to end this contamination nationwide.

7. Center Frontline Communities: Gillibrand said she would work to address the concerns of communities of color and low-income communities that have been disproportionately impacted by climate change and pollution, funding the cleanup of ongoing contamination and seeking the input of impacted communities to craft just climate policy. She also said she would order government agencies not to approve any large projects on indigenous land without the informed consent of Tribal governments.

Gillibrand's plan was met with enthusiasm from environmental groups. Greenpeace raised her grade on its Climate 2020 scorecard to an A minus, putting her second only to Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who is running on fighting climate change. She was originally in the No. 4 slot.

Friends of the Earth also applauded the plan.

"By prioritizing frontline, rural and marginalized communities, opposing fracking and new fossil fuel leasing on public lands and waters and committing to end fossil fuel subsidies, Gillibrand has demonstrated her leadership on climate issues in 2020," the group's senior fossil fuels program manager Nicole Ghio said in a statement.

Politico said Gillibrand's plan shares elements with the promises of other Democratic primary candidates, including the 2050 carbon neutrality deadline and the pledge to end fossil fuel leasing on public lands.

One major area in which she differs is her proposed carbon tax. Only South Bend Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former Maryland Rep. John Delaney have officially come out in support of the policy, Politico said.

Vox's Umair Irfan wrote that Gillibrand might also be trying to set herself apart from the crowded primary field by directly attacking the fossil fuel industry and asking them to foot the bill for climate mitigation, though Inslee has also promised to charge carbon polluters for the harm they have done.

"So will calling out the climate change miscreants pay off for Gillibrand?" Irfan asked. "Right now, she barely registers in several polls. And while climate change is a top-tier issue for voters, it received scant attention in the last round of Democratic primary debates. So it's unlikely to give her much of a boost when she returns to the debate stage next week. However, climate change has implications that will ripple throughout the U.S. economy and around the world, so Gillibrand adding her voice to the conversation is a step toward giving the topic the attention it deserves."

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