Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders on Thursday rolled out a $16 trillion plan — the most expensive policy proposal yet from the crowded field of 2020 hopefuls — to combat climate change by transforming the nation’s energy system and economy.
The plan, the most ambitious yet from a presidential contender on climate change, calls for the U.S. to reach 100 percent renewable energy for electricity and transportation no later than 2030, and go completely carbon neutral by at least 2050, by building new energy sources. That target falls in line with a report released by the United Nation’s climate science body in October last year, which warned that countries had just 12 years to limit global warming to moderate levels.
In addition, Sanders’ plan — the Green New Deal, which builds upon the sweeping plan released earlier this year by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — would create 20 million new jobs necessary to solving the climate crisis in areas like sustainable farming, engineering and an expanded Civilian Conservation Corp.
Among his other ideas is offering $2.18 trillion in funding for low- and middle-income families, as well as small businesses, to weatherize and retrofit their homes and businesses. Weatherization, the plan said, will reduce residential energy consumption by 30 percent.
“We must take action to ensure a habitable planet for ourselves, for our children, and for our grandchildren,” the plan said. “We will do whatever it takes to defeat the threat of climate change.”
The Vermont independent’s campaign said the plan will “pay for itself” over 15 years by requiring the fossil-fuel industry to pay for pollution via litigation, fees and taxes, as well as eliminating federal fossil fuel subsidies. Funding would also stem from revenues collected from the wholesale of energy produced by the regional Power Marketing Authorities, Sanders said, and by making the wealthy and large corporations pay their fair share. He also pushed for scaling back military spending on maintaining global oil dominance.
“The cost of inaction is unacceptable,” the plan said. “Economists estimate that if we do not take action, we will lose $34.5 trillion in economic activity by the end of the century.”
And when it comes to targeting the fossil fuel industry, Sanders’ plan goes a step further: As president, the plan said, he’d direct his Department of Justice to pursue criminal prosecution of companies.
The release of Sanders’ plan coincides with a town hall he’s holding in Paradise, California -- the city eviscerated by a devastating wildfire last year. The wildfire, which experts have linked to climate change, killed 85 people, making it the deadliest in state history.