We face a crisis unlike any in human history. It is a crisis of our own making—and one that poses an enormous threat to life on Earth.
The pollution we produce is raising global temperatures and sea levels; contaminating our air, land, and water; making storms, droughts, heat waves, wildfires, and floods more frequent and more destructive; devastating wildlife habitats and driving species to extinction; forcing millions of people to flee their homes; and producing widespread suffering and death. Solving this crisis is the fundamental test of our time.
We must forge an international alliance to reverse the rise in greenhouse gases and create a carbon-free future. The changes we need to make will not come easily or overnight. But they are essential to prevent the worst effects of climate change, they will save money, and they will create a safer, healthier, more prosperous world.
America can and should lead the way by enacting a Green New Deal. That entails an ambitious set of national goals: cut in half the total greenhouse gas emissions from all sectors, including transportation, industry, and buildings by 2030; replace fracked gas, coal, and other fossil fuels with enough clean energy to meet all of our electricity needs by 2035; and reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040.
To get from here to there, we need to:
- Place a comprehensive and effective price on carbon to account for the immense costs to our environment and public health.
- End tax giveaways to fossil fuel companies.
- Strengthen energy efficiency and emissions standards in order to make all new homes, buildings, and vehicles carbon-free.
- Accelerate the research, development, and implementation of clean-energy infrastructure and energy efficiency improvements.
- Prioritize our clean-energy transition in the frontline communities that suffer most from toxic pollutants.
- Complete land and water reclamation projects.
- Invest in workforce development and training, aiding workers displaced by the transition to a clean-energy economy.
- Prohibit new fossil fuel extraction on public lands and offshore.
- Upgrade the power grid to deliver energy more efficiently; to facilitate the use of more wind, solar, and other renewable energy sources; and to withstand the damage inflicted by the climate crisis.
- Strengthen public health protections and the enforcement of air, land, and water safeguards, including the monitoring and reporting of emissions and waste storage and disposal.
- Phase out fossil fuel use in federal operations.
- Expand our public transportation network to reduce congestion and pollution and improve safety and access.
As Colorado has shown, protecting the environment and growing the economy are not at odds. Clean-energy jobs are outpacing those in the fossil fuel industry nationwide.
Fifteen years ago, in my first address to the Colorado House as its Democratic leader, I challenged my colleagues to make our state a world leader in “the production and use of clean, efficient and renewable energy.” I endorsed a successful initiative to get 10 percent of Colorado’s electricity from renewable sources and helped double that goal three years later. I fought the Bush Administration’s attempts to weaken environmental standards. I sponsored bills to conserve open space and farmland, promote water conservation, and enhance energy efficiency and recycling.
I also backed measures to:
- Protect the quality of Colorado’s air and water.
- Spur large-scale solar projects, biomass development, and geothermal research.
- Map renewable-resource areas and expedite the construction of transmission lines.
- Bring wind power to schools.
- Help low-income families weatherize their homes and pay their heating bills.
- Give households, farmers, ranchers and businesses credit for the energy they produce on site.