Steve Bullock: 2020 Climate Forum

Summary

Even coming from a state where the belief in the human cause of climate change is seven points below the national average, Montana Governor Steve Bullock demonstrated his commitment to supporting climate policy reform during the forum. Bullock stressed that with the current state of the climate crisis, we do not have a margin of error that allows for inaction; however, we do have a duty to let opposed communities know how actions would affect them. He promised that those who are displaced from their jobs in the fossil fuel industry would not be left behind and would be the first to be hired for new clean energy jobs. Furthermore, his climate infrastructure bill would create additional jobs during the transition to a climate-change-fighting economy.

Coming from a state that is heavily reliant upon the agriculture industry, Bullock mentioned several ideas to tackle the massive greenhouse gas byproducts of that industry. Bullock discussed recent innovations like encouraging farmers to supplement cattle feed with seaweed to reduce methane emissions and the planting of cover crops. The implementation of such practices by farmers and ranchers would be incentivized through subsidies in a Bullock administration. He also stressed the importance of including conservationists and environmentalists in all agriculture-related climate discussions. Additionally, Bullock wants to bring together the Department of Agriculture, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Department of the Interior to look into the preservation of public lands and their possible usage as carbon capturers in an effort to make public lands have net-zero emissions by 2030 – a full 10 years before his country-wide net-zero goal.

With the understanding that the U.S. needs to be a leader in the fight against climate change, Bullock wants to face the climate crisis on a global scale. To do so, the Bullock administration would immediately rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement and would encourage our allies to invest in climate solutions alongside our own American investments. In the event of a mass climate refugee crisis, which Bullock hopes to avoid in the first place by taking immediate action, the administration would support giving an aid package to those affected and would adopt immigration policies that welcome refugees, rather than turn them away. Bullock’s climate reform plans and their impacts both in the U.S. and abroad show how he will address the fears of all those affected by climate change as we move forward into this era of uncertainty.

GREEN Analysis, Vikram Venkatram

Presidential Candidate Steve Bullock put particular focus on the issue of money in politics during the 2020 Climate Forum, emphasizing that special interests (such as the oil and gas lobby) have too much power to influence the decision-making of our politicians. He suggested limiting the amount of time that elected politicians in Congress can spend on their reelection campaigns as a partial solution to this problem. He also discussed the importance of changing the narrative about climate change: instead of discussing it as a threat, describing it as an opportunity, educating communities about what taking action on climate change would mean for them, and emphasizing the ways in which that action could benefit those communities to make the world a better place. As governor of Montana, Bullock leads a state that is home to many coal workers and farmers; as such, he discussed how making investments into those workers through training programs and other means, paying farmers for sustainable practices, and engaging with those groups personally should be an important part of any climate policy. As president, Bullock stated that he would ensure that every agency of the executive branch considers how it can contribute to the fight against climate change. Finally, Bullock emphasized “unleashing American ingenuity,” and investing in private companies to try and find technological breakthroughs to combat climate change.

In our view, Bullock is correct about the corrupting influence of money and lobbyists making action against climate change far more difficult. Taking steps to counteract the power of oil and gas companies in our political system is certainly a crucial step to improve our country’s approach towards the climate fight. Additionally, engaging with farmers, coal workers, and local communities should also certainly be a consideration of climate policy. However, we are concerned that Bullock’s climate plan does not go far enough. Technological innovation can certainly help find new climate solutions, but many of the technologies needed to protect our planet already exist. Bullock’s website mentions the need to expand solar and wind power, and to improve Renewable Fuel Standards, but does not go into a great amount of detail about how to achieve these goals or limit our current carbon consumption. The plan also does not discuss how to make the approach to fighting climate change more equitable. Low-income and minority communities are often the most badly hurt by the consequences of climate change, and in our view a strong climate policy should specifically address the concerns of those communities and ensure that their needs are met by the solutions.