What would the plan do?
Sanders pledged to declare climate change a national emergency and called for $16.3 trillion over a decade to transition the U.S. to 100 percent renewable electricity and phase out the use of traditional gasoline-powered engines.
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The “Green New Deal” aims to fully decarbonize the U.S. economy by 2050 to hit a target climate scientists have said is necessary to avoid the worst effects of global warming.
Like other Democratic climate plans, much of Sanders’s proposal would require Congressional action to pass — something that’s unlikely given its scale. But the plan stands out for its aggressiveness in confronting climate change, as well as its cost and difficulty to enact.
The campaign says the plan would “end unemployment” by creating 20 million jobs and offering assistance to displaced fossil fuel workers. It would also set aside more than $400 billion to help American farmers prepare for climate change and transition to grazing and planting techniques that sequester carbon.
The plan aims to reduce U.S. carbon emissions 71 percent by 2030. Through a $200 billion contribution for international climate aid, the administration would also target a 31 percent cut emissions from developing nations, outside of China.
Oil, gas and coal companies also would be targeted. Sanders says he would ban fracking for oil and gas, as well as mountaintop removal coal mining, and he would end federal subsidies for fossil fuels and “prosecute polluters — civilly and criminally — who knowingly put our planet in peril.”
How much would it cost?
$16.3 trillion over a decade
The Sanders camp says the plan will pay for itself over 15 years through the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies, new taxes on the wealthy, revenue from sales of federally owned renewables, and savings from new income taxes, reduced safety net spending and less military spending on protecting overseas oil.
Over 30 years, the Sanders camp says “averting climate catastrophe” with its plan will save the U.S. economy $21 trillion.
How would it work?
While Sanders could use the federal government’s regulatory powers to set stricter standards for greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel production on public lands, most of his plan’s major components — including reorienting federal utilities to deploy wind and solar — would require major action from Congress.
Sanders often calls for a “political revolution” where voters would sweep in like-minded politicians to Congress who would deliver on his goals. But securing that majority in next year’s election is unlikely, particularly since Sanders has not endorsed ending the filibuster in the Senate, which functionally means any major legislation needs 60 votes.
The plan also suggests Sanders may use the president’s emergency powers to circumvent Congress, as President Donald Trump is attempting to do for a border wall.
“Bernie will declare a national emergency on climate change and take immediate, large-scale action to reverse its effects,” the plan says. “This is an existential threat and we will do whatever it takes to confront it.”
A Sanders administration would work to set a federal renewable energy standard, strengthen EPA emissions rules and expand federally owned utilities, like the Tennessee Valley Authority, to build out new wind, solar and geothermal resources, according to the plan. To achieve 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030, the plan would not rely on “false solutions like nuclear, geoengineering, carbon capture and sequestration, or trash incinerators.”
Sanders also calls for trillions in grants and trade-in incentives to encourage consumers to switch to electric vehicles. He says he would also spend more than $85 billion on a national network of EV charging stations and put trillions toward public transport with a goal of increasing ridership 65 percent by 2030.
Who would it help?
Sanders says his plan will “benefit all Americans” by reducing the impacts of climate change and save them money by reducing energy costs through efficiency and weatherization programs, transportation investments and grants and trade-in programs for electric vehicles.
The plan would also target support for fossil fuel workers who would see their jobs disappear as part of his plan. A Sanders administration would provide five years of unemployment insurance, a wage guarantee, housing assistance, job training and priority placement for any displaced worker, as well as early retirement for those who no longer work.
The plan would also seek to help communities facing the strongest climate impacts through $40 billion Climate Justice Resiliency that would prioritize minority and low-income populations.
What have other candidates proposed?
The Sanders plan is so far the most aggressive of any Democratic candidate in the speed and style of its carbon reduction targets.
Before dropping out of the race Wednesday night, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has staked his candidacy on climate, releasing five separate plans to address the issue in different sectors. His main 2030 target, however, was 100 percent “clean” electricity, meaning it could include nuclear and fossil fuels with carbon capture technology, which Sanders eschews.
Former Vice President Joe Biden released a climate plan in June that — like Sanders and Inslee — targets no carbon emissions by midcentury. But Biden has been less detailed about his medium-term targets to get to that goal and has not pledged to phase out coal or curtail fossil fuel production.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren in April released a detailed plan to curtail fossil fuel production on public lands and former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke has called for the government and private sector to spend $5 trillion on climate over a decade. South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is the only major candidate to focus his climate plan on a price on carbon.
Who opposes it?
The Sanders climate plan will be opposed by Republicans and fossil fuel companies, which would see their core business eliminated, as well as some electric utilities, who may balk at the monumental task of transitioning to 100 percent renewables in a decade and object to the expanded role for federal utilities under the proposal.
Some energy analysts are also likely to speak out against the plan, as most economic models estimate that a 100 percent renewables target will be more expensive than a carbon-cutting plan that includes even a small role for non-renewable resources, like nuclear or carbon capture. And many will question using federally-owned utilities to build out wind and solar — an unorthodox proposal that would drastically shift their historic focus on fossil fuels and hydro.
Employees and unions in the fossil fuel sector may also oppose the planned upheaval of their sector, despite the promises of assistance for displaced workers. In recent months, many Green New Deal activists have steered clear of calling for aggressive curtailments in fossil fuel production in part to avoid drawing the ire of labor unions.