COMBATING THE CLIMATE CRISIS AND PURSUING ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE
Climate change is a global emergency. We have no time to waste in taking action to protect Americans’ lives and futures. The last four years have seen record-breaking storms, devastating wildfires, and historic floods. Urban and rural communities alike have suffered tens of billions of dollars in economic losses. Dams have failed catastrophically in Michigan. Farmers’ crops have been drowned in their fields across the Midwest. Coastal communities from Florida to New Jersey are facing an existential crisis as a result of sea level rise and stronger storms. Thousands of Americans have died. And President Trump still callously and willfully denies the science that explains why so many are suffering.
Like so many crises facing the United States, the impacts of climate change are not evenly distributed in our society or our economy. Communities of color, low-income families, and Indigenous communities have long suffered disproportionate and cumulative harm from air pollution, water pollution, and toxic sites. From Flint, Michigan, to the Navajo Nation, to Lowndes County, Alabama, millions of Americans have been denied access to clean, safe drinking water and even the most basic wastewater infrastructure. Pacific Islanders in Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands are losing their traditional way of life as sea level rise submerges their homelands. And although the youngest generations of Americans have contributed the least to this calamity, they stand to lose the most as they suffer from the impacts of runaway carbon pollution for decades to come.
Democrats believe there is a better way. We can and must build a thriving, equitable, and globally competitive clean energy economy that puts workers and communities first and leaves no one behind. We will help rebuild our economy from the COVID-19 pandemic and President Trump’s recession by mobilizing historic, transformative public and private investments to launch a clean energy revolution. We applaud the organizing efforts of young people, union workers, and communities of color to mobilize voters and make the climate crisis a top priority. As Democrats, we believe the scientists: the window for unprecedented and necessary action is closing, and closing fast. Democrats reject the false choice between growing our economy and combating climate change; we can and must do both at the same time. We will use federal resources and authorities across all agencies to deploy proven clean energy solutions; create millions of family-supporting and union jobs; upgrade and make resilient our energy, water, wastewater, and transportation infrastructure; and develop and manufacture next-generation technologies to address the climate crisis right here in the United States. And we will do all this with an eye to equity, access, benefits, and ownership opportunities for frontline communities—because Democrats believe we must embed environmental justice, economic justice, and climate justice at the heart of our policy and governing agenda.
We will take immediate action to reverse the Trump Administration’s dangerous and destructive rollbacks of critical climate and environmental protections. We will rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement and, on day one, seek higher ambition from nations around the world, putting the United States back in the position of global leadership where we belong. We will restore protections for irreplaceable public lands and waters, from Bears Ears National Monument to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. We will follow science and the law by reducing harmful methane and carbon pollution from the energy sector.
Democrats will make investments to create millions of family-supporting and union jobs in clean energy generation, energy efficiency, clean transportation, advanced manufacturing, and sustainable agriculture across America. All jobs in the clean energy economy should provide an opportunity to join a union. Democrats will restore and protect workers’ rights to organize and bargain collectively. The clean energy economy must represent the diversity of America. We will invest in the education and training of underrepresented groups, including people of color, low-income Americans, women, veterans, people with disabilities, and unemployed energy workers for jobs in clean energy-related industries, especially union jobs that provide strong opportunities for economic advancement. Democrats will target relevant investments with the goal of delivering 40 percent of the overall benefits to disadvantaged and frontline communities, including in clean energy and energy efficiency; clean transit and transportation; affordable and sustainable housing; remediation and reduction of legacy pollution; and critical clean water infrastructure.
Democrats will also mobilize a diverse new generation of young workers through a corps and cohort challenged to conserve our public lands; deliver new clean energy, including to low-income communities and communities of color; and address the changing climate, including through pre-apprenticeship opportunities, joint labor-management registered apprenticeships for training, and direct-hire programs that put good-paying and union jobs within reach for more Americans. Black, Latino, and immigrant workers are often on the front lines of disaster relief work with limited worker protections. Democrats will invest in this critical workforce, supporting the creation of family-supporting and union jobs in disaster response and climate resilience, with strong labor standards and worker protections, including good wages, benefits, access to paid leave, training and advancement opportunities.
We agree with scientists and public health experts that the United States—and the world—must achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible, and no later than 2050.
To reach net-zero emissions as rapidly as possible, Democrats commit to eliminating carbon pollution from power plants by 2035 through technology-neutral standards for clean energy and energy efficiency. We will dramatically expand solar and wind energy deployment through community-based and utility-scale systems, including in rural areas. Within five years, we will install 500 million solar panels, including eight million solar roofs and community solar energy systems, and 60,000 wind turbines, and turn American ingenuity into American jobs by leveraging federal policy to manufacture renewable energy solutions in America. Recognizing the urgent need to decarbonize the power sector, our technology-neutral approach is inclusive of all zero-carbon technologies, including hydroelectric power, geothermal, existing and advanced nuclear, and carbon capture and storage.
Democrats believe that any clean energy infrastructure project financed with federal support, including through the tax code, should come with robust wage and labor requirements. We will build a modern electric grid by investing in interstate transmission projects and advanced, 21st century grid technologies to power communities with clean electricity, including federal support to build sustainable and resilient energy grids in rural America and in Tribal areas lacking energy infrastructure. We will reduce methane pollution through strong federal standards and targeted support for repairing and replacing aging distribution systems, which will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, including for the same pipefitters, insulators, and other workers who built the systems in the first place and who know best how to protect our communities from methane pollution.
Democrats will lower families’ energy bills by making energy-saving upgrades to up to two million low-income households and affordable and public housing units within five years, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs and promoting safe, healthy, and efficient homes. We will ensure investments in affordable housing and public housing support both energy efficiency retrofits and construction of new units, to greatly increase the number of energy-efficient homes available to low-income families. We will address barriers and increase funding for programs that enable energy efficiency improvements for low-income families in urban and rural areas, including through the Weatherization Assistance Program and the Rural Utilities Service, and incentivize landlords to make energy efficiency and clean energy upgrades that will reduce their tenants’ energy costs.
We will set a bold, national goal of achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions for all new buildings by 2030, on the pathway to creating a 100 percent clean building sector. Within five years, we will incentivize tens of billions of dollars in private-sector investment to retrofit four million buildings, including helping local governments save money and cut pollution by weatherizing and upgrading energy systems in hospitals, schools, public housing, and municipal buildings. Democrats will encourage states and cities to adopt energy-efficient building codes, address barriers to energy efficiency upgrades, incentivize the adoption of efficient electric and geothermal pump home heating solutions that can help reduce families’ energy burden, and leverage the federal footprint to model net-zero and 100 percent clean energy building solutions.
Democrats affirm California’s statutory authority under the Clean Air Act to set its own emissions standards for cars and trucks. We will immediately convene California and other states with labor, auto industry, and environmental leaders to inform ambitious executive actions that will enable the United States to lead the way in building a clean, 21st century transportation system and stronger domestic manufacturing base for electric vehicles powered by high-wage and union jobs. Democrats will move quickly to reestablish strong standards for clean cars and trucks that consider the most recent advances in technology, and accelerate the adoption of zero-emission vehicles in the United States while reclaiming market share for domestically produced vehicles.
We will reduce harmful air pollution and protect our children’s health by transitioning the entire fleet of 500,000 school buses to American-made, zero-emission alternatives within five years. We will lead by example in the public sector by transitioning the three million vehicles in the federal, state, and local fleets to zero-emission vehicles. Democrats will additionally support private adoption of affordable low-pollution and zero-emission vehicles by partnering with state and local governments to install at least 500,000 public charging stations from coast to coast. We will increase investments in public transportation, understanding that the United States currently lags behind many other developed countries in the quality and availability of efficient and accessible public transportation. Democrats will aim to provide all Americans in municipalities with 100,000 or more residents with quality public transportation options by making flexible federal investments to upgrade and expand light rail, bus lines, existing transit systems, and pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure. Democrats will invest in modernizing our freight infrastructure, including ports, rail, and maritime freight, in order to reduce air and water pollution, improve public health, create jobs, and improve economic competitiveness.
Democrats believe we can build the clean energy infrastructure of the future using American-made materials. We will support measures to build a clean, equitable, and globally competitive manufacturing sector, including national Buy Clean and Buy America standards to incentivize production of low-carbon building and construction materials, like steel, cement, and timber, here in the United States. We will apply a carbon adjustment fee at the border to products from countries that fail to live up to their commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement, because we won’t let polluters undermine American competitiveness.
Democrats will partner with farmers to make the American agriculture sector the first in the world to achieve net-zero emissions, opening up new sources of income for farmers in the process. We will substantially improve water security and ecological health through conservation, protection, and maintenance of our water infrastructure, including water systems for home, commercial, industrial, and agricultural use. We will expand federal programs to help farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners pursue high-productivity, lower-emission, and regenerative agricultural practices in order to help build more resilient, vibrant, local and regional food systems. We will substantially increase investments in voluntary conservation programs, which generate economic and environmental benefits for farmers and their surrounding communities. We will support healthy coastal communities and marine ecosystems to sustain and enhance our economic well-being, including in the fishing, tourism and clean energy industries. And we will support communities and businesses nationwide in their efforts to build zero-waste and circular economies, including efforts to eliminate plastic waste and food waste.
Every American has the right to breathe clean air, drink clean water, and live without fear of exposure to toxic waste. And all Americans should benefit from the clean energy economy—especially those who have been left out and left behind for generations. Democrats will create an environmental justice fund to make historic investments aimed at eliminating legacy pollution, which disproportionately causes illness and premature death in communities of color, low-income communities, and Indigenous communities. We will protect children’s health by replacing lead service lines and remediating lead paint in homes and schools; remediate Superfund and other contaminated sites; and ensure housing and schools have adequate plumbing and safe wastewater disposal systems.
Democrats oppose the Trump Administration’s reckless and scientifically unsound decision to reverse a proposed ban on chlorpyrifos, a potent neurotoxin proven harmful to children and farmworkers. We will invest to help farmers reduce pesticide and chemical fertilizer use. And we will set science-based drinking water standards for emerging contaminants like PFOA and PFAS chemicals and establish aggressive plans for remediating this dangerous pollution. Energy companies should be held responsible for meeting strong standards to protect worker safety, public health, and the environment. Democrats are committed to ensuring tough safeguards in place, including Safe Drinking Water Act provisions, to protect local water supplies. We believe states should not be able to preempt local government decisions about energy production.
Democrats will work with affected frontline communities to develop a screening and mapping tool to ensure racial and socioeconomic equity in federal climate, energy, and infrastructure programs and identify areas of high cumulative pollution that threatens residents’ health and safety. We will help reduce heat stress in urban neighborhoods by planting millions of trees. We will support locally-driven economic development and commit to directing a significant portion of clean energy and sustainable infrastructure investments to historically marginalized communities to help create local jobs and reduce energy poverty, install clean energy technologies including community solar, build resilience to climate change impacts, prepare for disasters, expand access to green space and outdoor recreation opportunities, improve public health, and restore ecosystems.
Already, the impacts of climate change are being felt in communities across the country, and the American people are paying the price. Democrats commit to reducing climate risks and building back better after disasters and climate-fueled catastrophes in a resilient, green, and just manner. We will empower local communities to become more resilient to the impacts of the climate crisis. We will prioritize disaster preparedness for disproportionately exposed, frontline, and vulnerable communities and those who struggle most to cope, including seniors, low-income families, and people with disabilities, so that they can become more economically resilient to extreme weather events, heat stress, and increases in disease that scientists have connected to climate change. We will rectify the inequities and inefficiencies of disaster response, including transparent and timely reporting and oversight and protections and enforcement of disability rights.
Democrats will ensure FEMA has the experienced leadership, staff, and resources necessary to coordinate the federal response to climate change-influenced and other disasters, and is equipped to work in partnership with, and drive federal resources to, state, local, Tribal, and territorial governments to mount a successful emergency response in conjunction with local emergency responders, help communities recover and rebuild, and invest in pre-disaster mitigation and resilience. We will increase support for restoring wetlands, which are critical for protecting communities from sea level rise and storm surge and also act as natural carbon sinks. We will partner with states and local communities to make smart investments to avoid the loss of life and property, prevent flooding, mitigate disaster risks, and adapt to costly, growing climate impacts.
Democrats recognize that climate change poses serious risks to the economy and the financial system. We will require public companies to disclose climate risks and greenhouse gas emissions in their operations and supply chains. We will hold polluters and corporate executives accountable for intentionally hiding or distorting material information and for affecting the health and safety of workers and communities.
Democrats will empower and stand with workers and communities who have put their health and lives on the line and who have been impacted by the changing energy market, including by fighting to protect retirees’ health and pension benefits, shoring up the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, expanding the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act to include those harmed by our nation’s nuclear weapons efforts including uranium miners exposed to radiation on the job, and increasing funding for the Appalachian Regional Commission to support locally-driven economic development priorities. We will hold fossil fuel companies accountable for cleaning up abandoned mine lands, oil and gas wells, and industrial sites, so these facilities no longer pollute local environments and can be safely repurposed to support new economic activity, including in the heart of coal country.
Democrats will support the most historically far reaching public investments and private sector incentives for research, development, demonstration, and deployment of next-generation technologies, once again making the United States the world’s leader in innovation. We will challenge the best and brightest scientists, innovators, and entrepreneurs in the world to pursue breakthrough opportunities in energy storage, heavy-duty trucking and freight solutions, sustainable aviation fuels, and direct air capture and net-negative emissions technologies. We will advance innovative technologies that create cost-effective pathways for industries to decarbonize, including carbon capture and sequestration that permanently stores greenhouse gases and advanced nuclear that eliminates waste associated with conventional nuclear technology, while ensuring environmental justice and other overburdened communities are protected from increases in cumulative pollution. All of these investments will create jobs for blue-collar workers, including in fenceline communities, help decarbonize American industries, and create valuable new exports to help mitigate climate change around the world.
America’s national parks and monuments, public lands, and marine protected areas are treasures that should be held in trust for future generations. We will protect these precious places and preserve America’s unspoiled wildernesses for hunting, fishing, hiking, and camping by codifying the roadless rule, and grow America’s outdoor recreation economy, which supports millions of jobs in rural areas. Democrats will immediately reverse the Trump Administration’s harmful rollbacks of protections for national monuments like Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument. We support banning new oil and gas permitting on public lands and waters, modifying royalties to account for climate costs, and establishing targeted programs to enhance reforestation and develop renewables on federal lands and waters. We will take action to protect wildernesses and waters, and require full, rigorous, and transparent scientific and environmental reviews of any proposed mining projects near national treasures.
Democrats will protect wildlife habitats and biodiversity, slow extinction rates, and grow America’s natural carbon sinks by conserving 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030. We support fully funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund to increase resources for conserving public lands and waters and incentivizing voluntary conservation efforts on private lands, including through private-sector ecosystems markets. And Democrats will ensure America’s public lands and waters reflect the diversity of our country by engaging all Americans in the great outdoors, building a diverse workforce in our land management agencies, and protecting landscapes, marinescapes, and cultural sites that tell the full story of America.