Originally published in USA Today, June 18, 2015
Today, Pope Francis published his encyclical — an official teaching document to all 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide — on the moral imperative of addressing climate change. He is not alone among leaders of world faiths making such a clarion call for action.
We have come a long way as a nation in making ourselves more energy independent. Now is the time to take this progress to the next level — the future of our country and our planet depends on it.
New technologies now put an independent clean energy future decidedly within our reach as a nation.
But reach for it we must.
Clean energy represents the biggest business and job creation opportunity we’ve seen in a hundred years. Reliance on local, renewable energy sources also means a more secure nation and a more stable world.
Given the grave threat that climate change poses to human life on our planet, we have not only a business imperative but a moral obligation to future generations to act immediately and aggressively.
This is why protecting the United States from the devastating impact of climate change — while capitalizing on the job creation opportunity of clean energy — is at the center of my campaign for President.
All of us can acknowledge that with an “all of the above strategy,” President Obama has made the United States more energy independent in every category of fuels, including oil and gas.
But America did not land a man on the moon with an “all of the above strategy.” It was an engineering challenge.
Making the transition to a clean energy future is also an engineering challenge. We cannot meet the climate challenge with an all-of-the-above energy strategy, or by drilling off our coasts, or by building pipelines that bring oil from tar sands in Canada.
Instead, we must be intentional and committed to one over-arching goal as a people: a full, complete transition to renewable energy – and an end to our reliance on fossil fuels.
Saving the world is a goal worthy of a great people. It is also good business for the United States of America.
I believe, within 35 years, our country can and should be 100% powered by clean energy, supported by millions of new jobs. To reach this goal we must accelerate that transition starting now.
As President, on Day One, I would use my executive power to declare the transition to a clean energy future the number one priority of our Federal Government.
I would create a new Clean Energy Jobs Corps to partner with communities to retrofit buildings to be more energy efficient, improve local resiliency, create new green spaces, and restore and expand our forests so they can absorb more greenhouse gases.
I would retrofit federal buildings to the highest efficiency standards and require new federal buildings to be net-zero. I would require the federal fleet to be subject to low- or zero-emissions purchasing agreements, and require all federally-funded infrastructure projects to meet climate resiliency standards.
As President, I would direct the Environmental Protection Agency to take aggressive action to limit greenhouse gases: expanding rules to other large sources of emissions beyond power plants, adopting a zero-tolerance policy for methane leaks from current oil and gas production, and setting higher energy efficiency standards for new buildings while requiring energy costs to be transparent to building tenants and purchasers.
And I would reject projects like Keystone XL, drilling off our coasts and in the Arctic and Alaska. Furthermore, I would keep domestically produced oil and gas in the U.S., instead of selling it abroad — unless there is a clear strategic security rationale.
Beyond executive actions, I would make clean energy deployment – and full employment – a first order priority.
I would set a national, cross-sector Renewable Electricity Standard so our nation is powered by 100% clean energy by 2050, and a national goal of doubling energy efficiency within 15 years. Many states like California and Maryland are already leading the way forward for the United States.
I would fight for federal legislation for a cap on carbon emissions from all sources, with proceeds from permits returned to lower- and middle-class families, job transition assistance, and new jobs with the Clean Energy Corps.
As President, I would support a Clean Energy Financing Authority to support projects to increase efficiency and resiliency upgrades in cities, towns, and rural communities nationwide.
I would prioritize modernizing our electric grid to support localized renewable energy generation, reduced electricity waste, and increased security from sabotage or attack.
And I would increase our investment in basic clean energy research so the U.S. can reclaim the lead on energy innovation, including advancing development, deployment, transmission, and storage for renewable energy and new efficiency technologies.
The fact is, there is no either/or choice between our prosperity and protecting our planet – we can create a future where there are more jobs, and a future with a livable climate. And there is no future for humankind without a livable climate.
The reality, as we learned in Maryland, is that the two goals of job creation and a livable climate are indivisible. Driven by ambitious targets, we created thousands of new jobs while deploying clean energy technology and reducing greenhouse gas pollution by nearly 10 percent over just seven years.
As a Nation, together, we can do far more – with a bold vision for America’s clean energy future, and the strong leadership needed to get it done.