By Serge Dedina
When it comes to protecting the environment, no president in history has caused so much damage as President Trump.
From gutting the EPA and weakening rules that protect our air and water, to dismantling our national parks and destroying America’s global leadership on climate change, this administration has consistently opted for environmental policies that promise a less prosperous, healthy and secure future for our country.
Amidst this gloominess, there is a ray of hope. At last, the majority of Americans are firmly on the side of taking action. Polls show that two-thirds believe climate change is a crisis or serious problem, and where public opinion has gone, policymakers have followed.
Today, no political candidate who believes in delivering social and economic progress leaves out the need for environmental progress. In the Democratic primaries, multiple candidates are committed to creating a zero carbon economy, cracking down on Big Oil and Gas, and implementing expansive national policies such as the Green New Deal.
As someone who has spent decades in the climate movement, this is a welcome shift from what I’ve faced for most of my career. In the past, it was a big deal for candidates to even acknowledge climate change, let alone commit themselves to policies. But times have changed, and this important challenge has become the fundamental threat to our country’s future. We no longer have the luxury of cheering rhetorical commitments to protecting our climate, no matter how emotionally resonant a Green New Deal might sound. We must demand that leaders explain how they plan to confront the climate emergency.
And when it comes to explaining how to protect our environment, one candidate is far ahead of the pack: Mike Bloomberg. What differentiates Bloomberg from the Deomocratic pack is twofold: his plan is detailed and it’s doable. The plan includes a treasure trove of information befitting a leader who’s adopted the refreshing mantra “In God we trust, all others bring data.” Try and imagine the present occupant of the White House saying that.
As mayor of America’s biggest city, Bloomberg spent more than a decade tackling New York’s own climate crisis, planting more than 800,000 trees, delivering the best air quality in more than half a century, and slashing New York’s carbon footprint. Over the years, he’s led major national and international climate efforts, from the transformative Beyond Coal campaign that closed nearly 300 polluting coal power plants across the country, to acting as UN Special Envoy for Climate Action and teaming up with former California Gov, Jerry Brown to rally thousands of businesses and organizations, cities and states to keep the U.S. on track with cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
The environment clearly isn’t just another issue for Bloomberg, one that he needs to talk about because everyone else is. When it comes to climate, Bloomberg found his voice years ago and is a global leader in his own right. On this issue, Bloomberg “walks the walk.”
Bloomberg’s plan also rightly recognizes the central importance of setting the right incentives at the national level. To achieve Bloomberg’s aggressive target of achieving a 100% zero-carbon economy by 2050 and cutting in half emissions in the decade ahead, it requires the wholesale transformation of industry and society.
This isn’t something that can happen simply by passing legislation. It means enabling scientists, innovators and entrepreneurs to create new and cleaner technologies and infrastructure. From ending all subsidies for fossil fuels, to quadrupling the national R&D budget for climate tech, expanding solar and wind tax credits, and creating an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Grant program that would work with contractors, manufacturers, construction unions and retailers to retrofit homes and buildings to save energy, this is a plan that is ambitious, and achievable.
Importantly, the plan is not simply about creating massive new government programs. It is about practically supporting communities that are on the frontlines of climate change like Imperial Beach. Many of these communities have been left behind when it comes to economic change and the search for climate justice.
Yes, we need to shut down the coal plants, but what happens to the workers and local economies? How can low-income Americans get access to clean energy? What about communities from Louisiana to Michigan who are suffering the consequences of decades of fossil fuel pollution?
Bloomberg has a smart, multi-layered plan for implementing the transition. This is not surprising for a mayor who created tens of thousands of jobs and made the New York economy “greener” while reversing a budget deficit.
He also plans to urgently repair the damage caused by Trump to the agencies we need to lead the fight on climate, including the EPA, FERC and the National Parks Service. America can’t get back into that fight without our federal workers and scientists having the support, respect and resources to set effective rules, conduct research and manage our public spaces. From ending the absurd political meddling in the EPA’s scientific studies to reversing all the Trump rollbacks of environmental standards, this is a plan that recognizes the critical role of fixing institutions.
Americans have a choice between many quality political candidates who each have strong climate platforms. But we need more than just words. We need urgent action now to restore American leadership on this critical issue. That demands not just laudable goals, but detailed blueprints for how to achieve them. Thankfully, there’s one candidate above all others who might just help us to achieve a doable Green New Deal.
Serge Dedina is the mayor of Imperial Beach and executive director at WILDCOAST, an international organization working to conserve more than 31.9 million acres of globally significant wild coastlines, islands, lagoons and ocean.
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