While continuing his presidential campaign, Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced three bills last week seeking to cut carbon emissions more than 80% by 2050, create millions of jobs, and drive over $500 billion in clean energy investments. Acknowledging that low-income and minority communities in the U.S. suffer greater harm from the catastrophic impacts of climate change, Sanders introduced a bill on Thursday that offers energy efficiency improvements to older homes in potential disaster areas.
“What the scientists tell us is that we have a relatively short window of opportunity to bring about the fundamental changes that we need in our global energy system to transform our energy system,” Sanders said on the Senate floor Thursday. “It is absolutely vital that we do what many economists tell us we must and that is put a price on carbon. It is the simplest and most direct way to make the kind of cuts in carbon pollution that we have got to make if we are going to successfully transition away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency and sustainable energy.”
To assist the transfer away from fossil fuels, Sanders introduced the Climate Protection and Justice Act on Thursday seeking to reduce pollution more than 80% by 2050 while protecting communities that have become most vulnerable to climate change. The legislation sets a price on carbon for fossil fuel producers or importers starting at $15/ton in 2017, rising to $73/ton by 2035, and growing 5% annually afterwards. Proceeds from this carbon pollution fee would be returned to the bottom 80% of households making less than $100,000/year to offset any rake hikes by the fossil fuel companies.
The legislation also creates a Climate Justice Resiliency Council, which will distribute $20 billion a year in block grants to areas disproportionately affected by climate change. In addition, $3 billion will be set aside each year for energy efficiency investments for towns, cities, and low-income families.
“We applaud Senator Sanders for introducing legislation that puts a serious price on carbon pollution and sets ambitious targets for reducing the United States’ contribution to climate change,” stated Marty Hayden, vice president for policy & legislation at Earthjustice. “We are particularly heartened that the bill recognizes the importance of climate justice and seeks to help those communities already overburdened by conventional pollution. These communities are likely to be among the first and worst hit by the impacts of climate change.”
On Tuesday, Sanders also introduced the American Clean Energy Investment Act of 2015 and the Clean Energy Worker Just Transition Act to create millions of jobs and drive over $500 billion in clean energy investments between now and 2030. Co-sponsored by Sens. Jeff Merkley and Edward Markey, these bills would create new sustainable energy jobs and allocate $41 billion to helping oil, gas, and coal workers as they transition out of the fossil fuel industry.
“Native Alaskans and Native Americans, along with other communities of color in the United States, suffer the effects of climate change first and worst among all Americans,” said Millie Hawley, President of the IRA Council for the Native Village of Kivalina, located in northwest Alaska. “We deserve equitable treatment and justice, which means resources to adapt to the rapidly changing climate, to live as a people who are identified by our culture and not as a people who once were, and to continue living as we have traditionally in spite of the changes caused by the excessive use of fossil fuel.”