By Howie Hawkins
The next president should declare a Climate Emergency, which will give the president powers to act rapidly and decisively to confront the climate crisis. The president should also create a cabinet-level Office of Climate Mobilization for the coordination of all federal agencies in mobilizing the nation’s resources to achieve zero greenhouse gas emissions and 100% clean renewable energy by 2030.
- Reject all new federally-approved coal, oil, gas, and other fossil fuel project permits.
- Phase-out oil and gas drilling and fracking on public lands and off our coasts.
- Rejoin the Paris Climate Accord.
- Ask Congress to investigate the fossil fuel industry’s role in misleading the public and stalling climate action, and to prepare to hold the industry accountable.
I am still the only presidential candidate to have signed the pledge to date.
350 Action’s Day One Pledge is certainly a good start on climate action. I think their call for presidential actions to immediately curtail fracking and new fossil fuel projects is particularly important. Those actions are the immediate cutting-edge demands of the climate movement now.
If we don’t stop these projects, we will be locked into at least three or four decades of greenhouse gas emissions because that is how long investors expect to profit from their investments. If we let these projects develop – new fracked-gas and fracked-oil wells, pipelines to transport fracked gas and oil, gas-fired power plants, and more – it will be too late to stop a climate holocaust.
I believe the president should take more actions on Day One. My campaign platform goes much farther and is centered around an ecosocialist Green New Deal, which includes an Economic Bill of Rights for economic and environmental justice as well as a Green Economic Reconstruction Program for zero emissions and 100% clean energy by 2030 in all productive sectors – agriculture, manufacturing, transportation, and buildings as well as electric power production.
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On Day One, the president should ask Congress for the authority to set up a cabinet-level Office of Climate Mobilization to plan and coordinate among all federal agencies an emergency mobilization to achieve zero greenhouse gas emissions and 100% clean energy by 2030.
The analogy here would be the Office of War Mobilization during World War II. The federal government nationalized or built a quarter of all US manufacturing capacity during the war in order to turn industry on a dime to defeat the fascist Axis powers. We need to do nothing less to defeat climate change.
Our ecosocialist Green New Deal would do one thing very differently. After World War II, the federal government handed back the war production facilities, many of them built at public expense, to the super-rich and their giant corporations. We will build and develop these Green New Deal factories as worker cooperatives so that everybody working in them receives their full, fair, and equitable share of the value they create with their labor.
Declare the Climate Crisis a National Emergency
On Day One, the next president should declare a Climate Emergency. The next president should seek the cooperation of Congress, but not be deterred from acting on the climate crisis if faced with another do-nothing Congress. By declaring the climate crisis a national emergency, the president is empowered by existing laws with many authorities to address the climate crisis without congressional approval.
Most of the emergency power legislation relates to threats to national security. Congressional, presidential, Pentagon and intelligence reports and policy documents have identified climate change as a national security threat since 1990, with increasing urgency as the years have gone by.
The climate-change deniers in the Trump administration may have deleted climate change from the list of national security threats in their National Defense Strategy documents since 2017, but if the fact-challenged Trump administration can declare an emergency to divert military funds to an unneeded wall on the Mexican border, the next president will have far more grounds in government reports and policy documents for declaring a climate emergency.
- Reorganize the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), now captured by the fossil fuel industry, into the Federal Renewable Energy Commission (FREC) with the new mission of enabling a rapid shift to clean renewable energy.
- Divert military construction funds to building clean renewable energy.
- Suspend oil leases because they add to greenhouse gas emissions.
- Use emergency powers to respond to industrial shortfalls to support clean renewable energy.
- Extend loan guarantees to critical industries to support renewable energy.
- Instruct the Department of Transportation to use its broad power to “coordinate transportation” during national emergencies to restrict gasoline-powered truck and vehicle transportation while expanding electrified rail transportation.
- Use US votes in the IMF and World Bank to ban funding for fossil fuel projects.
- Declare a ban on eminent domain for fossil fuel infrastructure.
- Mandate that federal agencies weigh the climate impact of their decisions.
- Reward proposals for government contracts based on their impact on climate change
- Instruct the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to require corporations to disclose their vulnerability to climate impacts.
- Close the loophole in EPA regulations that exempts agribusiness from reporting the greenhouse gas emissions of cattle, unlike other agricultural products.
- Require projects subject to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires analysis and mitigation of environmental impacts, to include measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Environmental Justice and a Global Green New Deal
From Day One, the next president should also prioritize using the public money spent on climate action to uplift the economies of poor communities by spending the funds directly on projects in those areas under community direction instead of passing the funds through state governments that have neglected these communities.
From Day One, the next president should ask Congress to appropriate funds for a Just Transition for workers and communities who lose jobs and tax revenues due to economic conversion to demilitarized green production in the military, fossil fuel, and other economic sectors. The Just Transition should guarantee five years of wage, benefit, and local tax revenue maintenance as the country transitions to a clean energy and demilitarized economy. In the meantime, the president should use the powers and resources available under an emergency declaration to support a Just Transition for workers and communities.
From Day One, the next president should advocate for and contribute substantial resources to a Global Green New Deal, where the rich countries help the poor countries develop by jumping over the 19th-century fossil age into the 21st century solar age. The solution to the climate crisis will be international, or there won’t be a solution.
Replacing the climate-denier-in-chief now occupying the White House is only the first step. Brazil’s aggressive deforestation of the Amazon is a carbon-climate bomb. China is building 700 coal plants along its Belt and Road Initiative. The Gulf autocracies are mobilized politically across the world to stop any transition away from oil and gas. Russia just launched a barge with the first of at least seven planned floating nuclear power stations to power its massive expansion of offshore oil and gas extraction in the Arctic Ocean.
The next president will have to employ an aggressive and sophisticated mix of diplomatic and economic incentives to help the whole world commit to a rapid transition to clean energy and climate safety. The US will find many allies among most of the countries of the world who have pushed for much more aggressive climate action in the UN-sponsored climate summits. These nations include most of the poor countries that are bearing the most immediate and biggest burdens of climate change. The climate change already baked in by greenhouse gas in the atmosphere now means it is already too late for some of the island nations. Twenty-four of the world’s 33 largest river deltas are already being damaged by rising seas, adversely affecting 500 million people. The UN forecasts up to 1 billion climate refugees by 2050 who will be forced to move due to rising seas, excessive heat, or drought in their home communities.
Trade agreements and a carbon tax, which serves as a tariff on high-carbon imports, will be part of the policy mix. The massive public investments needed for the energy revolution will be a huge economic stimulus and a big incentive for countries to join in the economic boom of converting all productive systems to zero emissions and clean power, from regenerative agriculture and zero-waste manufacturing to electrified transportation and green buildings. We must also realize that this kind of global investment and coordination will require an international ecosocialist economic democracy where productive facilities are largely socially owned and democratically administered to meet the basic needs of all within ecological limits.
The ruling classes of many powerful countries with vested interests in fossil fuels will resist. But there are more of us than there are of them. We cannot leave our futures in their hands anymore if we want to survive.
That is a tall order compared to signing on to 350 Action’s Day One Pledge of minimal commonsense climate actions. But none of the major party candidates have signed yet. That is just another case in point for why we need Green Party candidates campaigning for real solutions – because the major parties do not.
Howie Hawkins in 2010 became the first person to run for office on a Green New Deal when he ran for governor of New York. Hawkins is seeking the Green Party nomination for president with an ecosocialist Green New Deal as the foundation of his campaign.