Editor’s Note: Elizabeth Warren is one of 10 presidential candidates taking part in CNN’s climate crisis town hall Wednesday, September 4 at 5:00 p.m. ET. She is a US senator from Massachusetts. The opinions expressed in this commentary are her own; view more opinion at CNN.
The world’s leading experts have long known that climate change is real, it is happening, and we are running out of time. We face record floods, wildfires, and extreme storms that rip apart whole communities. People are dying. There are billions of dollars in damage. The air we breathe and the water we drink are being poisoned by dangerous amounts of pollution.
Taking bold action to confront the climate crisis is as important – and as urgent – as anything else the next president will face. We cannot wait.
That’s why I’m an original supporter of the Green New Deal, which commits us to a 10-year mobilization through 2030 to reach the goal of net-zero domestic greenhouse gas emissions as fast as possible. It’s also why I’ve woven climate change throughout my policy proposals, because we need big, structural change across every sector, and we need to sustain it over time. On Tuesday, I put out a plan to achieve 100% clean energy in America in 10 years – building on Governor Jay Inslee’s10-year action plan to decarbonize our electricity, our vehicles, and our buildings.
But to really address our climate crisis head-on, we must address the legacy of environmental racism and recognize that climate change doesn’t impact every community equally. Hard data shows that it disproportionately impacts communities of color, indigenous people, and low-income Americans. People of color are more likely to live in neighborhoods with toxic waste facilities. Black and Hispanic Americans are more likely to be exposed to air pollution than white Americans. Intense storms bear down on these communities – with recovery that is slow, painful, and often lacking total support from the government. Latinx families and workers are vulnerable to record heat waves and heat-related deaths. Indigenous people are seeing their food supply threatened, facing displacement from their homes, and are being trampled over by special interests that want to exploit their lands and sacred sites. I could go on.
Our climate crisis will leave no one untouched. It poses an existential challenge – but it also gives us a once-in-a-generation opportunity to marshal all of our resources and all of our people to unleash the best of American innovation and creativity to take it on.
We’ll do that by employing millions of workers in good, union jobs with accompanying pay scales and benefits. We’ll provide coal workers and others employed in the fossil fuel industry with financial security, including guaranteeing wage and benefit parity and early retirement benefits. For too long, there has been tension between transitioning to a green economy and creating good, middle class, union jobs. In a Warren administration, we will do both things.
We’ll take on the racism and inequality embedded in the existing system and readjust our economic approach to ensure that communities of color and others who have been systematically excluded from our fossil fuel economy are not left behind. We can make sure that we prioritize resources and investments that’ll spur economic development for these communities while also protecting them from the harmful effects of climate change now. We can do more. But to do it right, we must create a truly participatory and democratic process, centered on and led by those living on the front lines of climate change. In the course of this campaign, we will be talking to the people, experts, advocates, and families who have felt or seen first-hand the depths of the crisis we face. With them squarely at the table, we will be releasing our ideas on how we can directly confront the racial and economic inequality embedded in our fossil fuel economy.
There is no one-size fits all approach to our climate crisis. As president, I promise you that we will confront climate change, but we won’t do it by turning our backs on the communities of color and the most vulnerable or on workers employed in the fossil fuel industry. We can lift up frontline communities, empower workers, and tackle climate change – all at the same time. This is the promise of the Green New Deal – and this is why I’m in this fight.