Bernie Sanders: 2020 Climate Forum

Summary

Bernie Sanders’s climate policy is strongly centered around his campaign’s focus on justice and equity. As a supporter of the Green New Deal, Sanders proposes a $16.3 trillion plan for an economic mobilization and structural overhaul which aims to reduce carbon emissions to net-zero by 2050. At the Climate Forum, Senator Sanders began by laying out his specific policy positions, all of which revolve around addressing climate change as an emergency and providing justice and equity for those most affected by climate change. 

His plan proposes the creation of 20 million green jobs that he believes will lessen the effects of the climate crisis in industries such as energy efficiency retrofitting, renewable power plants, and electric automobiles. Bernie consistently insisted that the workers within the fossil industries are not at fault for climate change. His climate plan includes provisions for a “just transition” for such workers, which includes five years of full pay, education, and job training. The Vermont Senator also made clear that he will declare the issue a national emergency so that he can act with executive authority. Moreover, he believes that his plan can be fully funded by ending federal subsidies on fossil fuels, cutting back military oil spending, increasing financial penalties for emissions, and “massively” raising taxes on fossil fuel income and wealth.

Bernie emphasized the urgency of action by stating that in order to tackle climate change, we need to mobilize quickly–similarly to how the country engaged in widespread economic mobilization during World War II. Bernie sees the economics and policy as simple; it is the political factor that makes achieving this climate mobilization difficult. Addressing the crowd, Senator Sanders stated, “What do you do with an industry that lies to the American people? How do you hold fossil fuel executives who knowingly destroy the planet accountable?” Sanders suggests that in order to fully implement his climate plan, Democrats must pressure Republicans, CEOs, and special interest groups at every point. Without this grass-roots mobilization, Sanders admits, his plan will be difficult to implement. However, he remains optimistic, believing that we have witnessed direct damages from climate change comparable to Pearl Harbor, and that as president, he could organize WWII levels of mobilization to acknowledge and address the growing global crisis.

GREEN Analysis, Jojo Farina

Senator Bernie Sanders’ climate plan is by far the largest and most expensive, but he argues the need for such a plan by stating that the environmental crisis is the biggest issue of our generation. Bernie cites the increase in devastating fires and the increase in flooding and massive hurricanes as evidence of this advent of a climate catastrophe. With these examples, Bernie also demonstrates the intersectionality of the climate issue: not only will there be greater and more devastating natural disasters, these disasters and other climate-related issues will disproportionately affect the poor, working class, and people of color. With such a large crisis looming ahead of us, Bernie argues that the response needs to be just as big, if not bigger.

With that being said, some of Sanders’ ideas are a little idealistic and open to criticism. His 16 trillion-dollar plan may seem extreme to many, but Bernie argues that that is what is necessary to help support those displaced by the change in the energy workforce and to completely redefine our nation’s economy. Similarly, Sanders said in the forum that he would use any executive action that he possibly could, but many have critiqued this strategy as it is less permanent and can be easily revoked in the next presidential term. Nevertheless, Bernie Sanders’ plan may be the only one which truly invests enough resources into trying to reduce climate change, with his plan being the only one to receive an A rating from Greenpeace. And, although his plan will destroy many jobs in the fossil fuel sector, Bernie argues that it will create “up to 20 million good paying jobs.”