Tom Steyer: 2020 Climate Forum

Summary

Whereas previous speaker Andrew Yang declared America was “ten years too late,” on climate change, Steyer went a step further saying he had realized 12 years ago the precarious environmental path the country was treading. Steyer, himself a billionaire, pointed to corporations as the reason that change hasn’t come in all that time. Simply put, “corporations have bought the government.” With Big Oil willing to “fight to the bitter end” on climate legislation, Steyer contextualized his leap into politics as a matter of necessity after years of investment in green research and startups.

Steyer referenced the need to go beyond UN standards in order to put the United States back on the right path for climate protection. Emphasizing the urgency of the climate crisis, he outlined his intentions to declare a climate emergency, to demand a Green New Deal from Congress, and to immediately begin using emergency powers of the presidency to push forward climate policy. These far-reaching actions would regulate how electricity is produced and deny usage of public land to fossil fuel companies. Through his ambitious plan, Steyer hopes to rebuild American moral leadership on climate. He then pivoted back towards fighting corporate interests by instituting regulations other than carbon prices, though he remained open to the option. He railed against the rhetoric of “healthy economy against healthy climate” pushed by corporate interests and promised to establish a 50 billion dollar fund to help communities affected by the transition to green energy. Pulling on his previous philanthropic work, he also committed to expanding investment in green research.

While combating concerns that he was politically inexperienced, Steyer asserted his experience in building his billion dollar company from scratch as well as his experience in grassroots organization. Furthermore, he painted himself as the candidate to focus the nation on a positive outlook on climate change, and hoped that this focus would give rise to a climate-driven mass movement to break through current Republican opposition to climate change legislation. Additionally, Steyer went so far as to say that Donald Trump had “abdicated” his position as a leader through his disregard of the American people and hinted at a call for impeachment.

GREEN Analysis, Vikram Venkatram

In his Climate Forum appearance, Tom Steyer put forth an ambitious vision for his plan to address climate change. Steyer was justly critical of the UN standards on climate change and carbon emissions which nations regularly fail to achieve. He stressed the need for a new, more feasible plan. A key challenge with this ambitious goal, however, will be balancing economic and social interests that resist climate policy with the decisive, radical action that climate change demands of us. Targeting big corporations as the root cause of climate inaction, Steyer emphasized enacting legislative rules to control corporate carbon emissions and pollution and espouses the belief that improving climate can in turn improve the economy. Steyer’s plans present a view of climate action where there are no losers and, if realized, a plan that corporations and Americans alike are likely to embrace.