Warren Tackles Climate Crisis as Opportunity for Jobs

(CN) – Now at the head of the pack among 2020 Democratic presidential contenders, Senator Elizabeth Warren has been furiously rolling out policy proposals over the past week.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks during an Oct. 2, 2019, gun safety forum in Las Vegas. (AP photo/John Locher)

On Wednesday, she released a new plan for climate justice. While it’s been a major point of discussion among activists and United Nations diplomats in recent months, the topic of climate change has barely been broached in televised debates between the candidates fighting for the Democratic nomination.

“We didn’t get here by accident,” Warren’s announcement states. “Our crisis of environmental injustice is the result of decades of discrimination and environmental racism compounding in communities that have been overlooked for too long. It is the result of multiple choices that put corporate profits before people, while our government looked the other way. It is unacceptable, and it must change.”

Warren in the past has expressed support for a carbon tax, though Wednesday’s plan didn’t mention it.

Instead she repeated the by-now familiar axiom that the communities that do the least to cause harmful climate change are the first to feel its impacts. Warren promised to invite community leaders to the White House within her first 100 days in office for a climate-justice summit. 

Warren, as well as all the other senators running for president, co-signed the ambitious Green New Deal plan introduced in the House of Representatives earlier this year. 

She notes that President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal contained elements of structural racism and assured voters that would not be the case this time.

The new plan would support better mapping services to identify vulnerable communities and adjust permitting accordingly under the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. It would also direct a total of $1 trillion over the next decade, or one-third of available funds, to those communities.

Warren also takes a broad look, saying she would build wealth in “frontline communities” with her housing plan and expanded health care, including Medicare for All. 

Noting that the climate crisis creates a unique opportunity for American jobs in manufacturing and clean energy, Warren promised her full support and wage and benefit parity to fossil fuel workers who transition into a new industry.

She would also defend pensions, secure retirement and benefits for those workers, and reinstate work safety rules for Trump administration has axed.

“This can be a great moment of national unity, of common purpose, of lives transformed for the better. But we cannot succeed in fighting climate change unless the people who have the skills to get the job done are in the room as full partners,” she wrote.

Warren emphasized that the Trump administration has significantly weakened protections like the 1970 National Environmental Policy Act, and said her plan would mandate all federal agencies to consider climate protections as they develop permits and rules, as well as hold fossil fuel investors and polluters accountable. 

“Climate action needs to be mainstreamed in everything the federal government does,” she wrote. 

She committed to retrofitting 4% of U.S. buildings annually to increase energy efficiency, initially the idea of Washington Governor Jay Inslee.

Warren would also protect tribal nations, she says, forcing developers to obtain real consent before starting projects on tribal land. She committed as well to protecting vulnerable communities during climate disasters like hurricanes and wildfires. 

“A more recent study found that while whites largely cause air pollution, Blacks and Latinxs are more likely to breathe it in,” Warren wrote. “Unsurprisingly, these groups also experience higher rates of childhood asthma. And many more low-income and minority communities are exposed to toxins in their water — including lead and chemicals from industrial and agricultural run-off.”

The new plan was cheered by climate activist group Sunrise Movement on Twitter. 

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