Sanders proposes $16.3 trillion Green New Deal to woo 2020 voters

Climate plan by Democratic candidate would commit massive US economic resources to transitioning off fossil fuels.

    The new plan from the Bernie Sanders campaign commits $1.3 trillion to ensure that workers in the fossil fuel industry can adapt as the US moves towards renewable sources of energy [File: Al Drago/Reuters]
    The new plan from the Bernie Sanders campaign commits $1.3 trillion to ensure that workers in the fossil fuel industry can adapt as the US moves towards renewable sources of energy [File: Al Drago/Reuters]

    Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders has unveiled a climate change strategy that would spend $16.3 trillion to help the United States generate 100 percent of its electricity from renewable energy by 2030 and achieve "full decarbonisation" by 2050.

    The highly ambitious plan would "launch a decade of the Green New Deal", a 10-year federal "mobilisation" that would factor climate change into every policy action - from immigration to foreign policy - while promising to create 20 million jobs in the process.

    The proposal outlines dozens of policies aimed at aggressively moving the US away from fossil fuels in the electricity, transportation and building sectors.

    It also seeks to restore US leadership and financial aid under the 2015 Paris Agreement, while giving trillions of dollars to assist fossil fuel workers and vulnerable minority communities in the transition to a green economy.

    Sanders's plan bans the practice of fracking to extract natural gas and oil and prohibits the import and export of fossil fuels. In addition, it sets a moratorium on nuclear power plant licence renewals.

    "As President, Bernie Sanders will boldly embrace the moral imperative of climate change and mobilize the political will necessary for a wholesale transformation of our society, with massive investments in sustainable energy, energy efficiency, and a transformation of our transportation system," the plan reads.

    'Pay for itself'

    Sanders's plan comes after several of his Democratic rivals - including Elizabeth Warren, Beto O'Rourke, Joe Biden and Cory Booker - unveiled their detailed climate change strategies aiming to neutralise greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, responding to the growing importance of the issue to voters.

    Jay Inslee, who had been the one Democratic candidate focusing predominantly on climate, dropped out of the race on Wednesday.

    Meanwhile, on Thursday, the Democratic National Committee rejected a resolution to hold a debate that would singularly address the climate crisis. Party officials voted 17-8 against the proposal.

    However, CNN will be hosting a September 4 climate town hall with 10 of the Democratic candidates.

    More than half of the two dozen Democratic presidential hopefuls have endorsed or embraced the Green New Deal, a Congressional resolution introduced by Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey. That plan calls for a 10-year, government-driven mobilisation to decarbonise the economy through investments in clean energy, as well as social and economic justice programmes.

    The Green New Deal has become a political target of President Donald Trump - who denies human-caused climate change - and Republicans in Congress who call the plan socialist, radical and too costly.

    Sanders said his own Green New Deal plan will "pay for itself over 15 years" by raising taxes and fees on fossil fuel companies.

    He says much of the revenue will be generated from renewable energy produced by federal power authorities, with over $1 trillion in scaled-back military spending and income tax collected from the 20 million new jobs he says the plan will create.

    By the numbers

    Sanders's plan would direct the Environmental Protection Agency to ensure the US cuts its greenhouse gas emissions 71 percent below 2017 levels by 2030. It would also give developing countries financial aid to reduce their emissions 36 percent below 2017 levels by 2030.

    The proposal aims to restore US stewardship in executing the goals of the Paris accord, which Trump said the US would formally leave in 2020. It commits $200bn to the United Nations Green Climate Fund to help poorer nations develop cleanly and cope with worsening weather. The fund initially received more than $10bn in pledges, but Trump refused to deliver two-thirds of the $3bn promised by his predecessor, former US President Barack Obama.

    In order to achieve 100 percent renewables in 10 years, the Sanders plan would create a new Power Marketing Administration at the federal level to coordinate power distribution to utilities. It envisions spending $1.5 trillion to build out more renewable energy and $852bn to boost energy storage capacity.

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    The plan also calls for federal mandates to spur the electrification of the transportation and building sectors, which would drastically reduce the use of oil, natural gas and propane.

    It calls for a transition to 100 percent electric vehicles, providing $2 trillion in grants to low- and moderate-income families to trade in their fossil fuel-dependent vehicles for new electric vehicles - and $85.6bn to build a national electric vehicle charging infrastructure network.

    It would also set a federal mandate through the Department of Energy to ensure that all new buildings would not use natural gas, oil and propane for heating, cooling and cooking, and provides $964bn for grants to help low- and middle-income people cope with raised costs.

    The plan also commits $1.3 trillion to ensure that workers in carbon-intensive industries receive strong benefits, a living wage, training and job placement as the country moves away from fossil fuels.

    Sanders's proposal would also create a $40bn Climate Justice Resiliency Fund to help vulnerable communities.

    SOURCE: Reuters news agency