Watch CNN’s live town hall on the climate crisis featuring 10 Democratic presidential candidates tonight beginning at 5 p.m. ET.
Sen. Kamala Harris is leaning in on her record as a California prosecutor who sought to punish polluters in her new $10 trillion climate plan, which aims for a carbon-neutral US economy by 2045.
The proposal, released to CNN ahead of the network’s climate town hall Wednesday night, centers on widely shared Democratic beliefs of investing in zero-emission transportation and carbon-neutral electricity. Like other candidates, Harris pledges to reverse the Trump administration’s rollbacks of federal environmental rules. But the California Democrat also leans on her record of punishing polluters as the state’s attorney general and San Francisco’s district attorney.
In a statement released with her plan, Harris says her presidential climate proposal is “about putting people first, justice for communities that have been harmed and accountability for those responsible. It provides the pathway to engage all Americans to tackle the climate crisis, build a clean economy that creates millions of family-sustaining jobs, and guarantee every person’s right to breathe clean air and drink clean water.”
The proposal includes ways to raise revenue, such as creating a pollution fee and eliminating fossil fuel subsidies, but the campaign did not further specify how it would be paid for.
The plan builds on a number of Harris’ proposed Senate bills.
To reach the overall carbon-neutral goal by 2045, Harris would invest $10 trillion in public and private spending over 10 years to create millions of jobs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in electricity and ground transportation. Her plan pledges to create “progressive year-on-year benchmarks that target individual sectors,” such as energy, infrastructure and industry.
The major benchmark year highlighted in the plan is 2030, to reach the goal of 100% carbon-neutral electricity. Harris would reinstate federal emission rules for vehicles, leading to 50% of new passenger vehicles sold being zero-emission by 2030 and 100% of cars zero-emission by 2035. Low- and middle-income families would be boosted by an expansion of the electric vehicle tax credit and by improving a “cash for clunkers” program that incentivizes replacing gas-fueled cars with zero-emission vehicles.
Rural, farming and ranching communities would see the deployment of clean energy technology and the help of the US Department of Agriculture to “fully implement science-based agricultural conservation practices by 2040,” a part of the plan Harris calls “climate-smart agriculture.”
Her proposal also allocates up to $8,000 each for unemployed, dislocated or underemployed workers for skills and education training to create jobs in the green economy.
As California’s attorney general, Harris jointly prosecuted Plains All American Pipeline with the Santa Barbara County district attorney, which resulted in a grand jury indictment on 46 criminal charges related to the largest oil spill in Southern California in decades.
She also helped secure for California an $85 million settlement with Volkswagen for cheating on emissions tests for its diesel vehicles. If Harris is elected, her plan promises to follow that same prosecutorial path, increasing penalties for companies that violate federal pollution laws and restoring the “polluter pays” model for funding the Superfund program.
On pursuing polluters, Harris pledges she will end federal subsidies for the fossil fuel industry, including eliminating tax preferences and opposing new fossil fuel infrastructure projects. Harris says she will leverage both executive action and Congress to end that federal support.
Harris also leans into the Climate Equity Act, legislation that she and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Dermocrat, announced in Congress earlier this summer. The draft proposal focusesf on “frontline communities,” those that have experienced systemic socioeconomic disparities.
Like with her gun-safety proposal, Harris promises she would use her executive authority as president to swiftly implement principles in her Climate Equity Act, such as instituting an independent Office of Climate and Environmental Justice Accountability to represent the views of these front-line communities.
Harris also pledges to pursue her Water Justice Act, a $250 billion plan addressing the drinking water crisis in rural communities.
On the international scale, Harris, like many of her fellow 2020 hopefuls, says her administration would immediately rejoin the Paris climate accord.
“The entire world is looking for climate solutions,” Harris says in the final paragraph of her 24-page proposal. “Americans can and must lead.”