NEWS Bernie Sanders’ $16 Trillion Climate Plan Is Nothing Short of a Revolution

For the orig­i­nal, click here.

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On Thurs­day, Bernie Sanders released his long-​​awaited pres­i­den­tial cli­mate plan. And folks, Bernie is gonna Bernie.

You can hear his voice in every­thing as it spits hot fire about pros­e­cut­ing the fos­sil fuel indus­try, uplift­ing work­ers, and cre­at­ing a whole swath of new pub­lic works pro­grams and infra­struc­ture. It also calls for 100 per­cent renew­able energy for trans­porta­tion and elec­tric­ity sec­tors by 2030 while eschew­ing nuclear power and demil­i­ta­riz­ing the world, set­ting a goal that’s some­where between wildly ambi­tious and out of reach. In that regard, it per­fectly cap­tures the icon­o­clas­tic nature of the Ver­mont sen­a­tor him­self. But whether it can be imple­mented is a big ques­tion mark.

For­mer pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Jay Inslee, who exited the 2020 race on Wednes­day, made waves when he announced a $9 tril­lion plan to com­bat cli­mate change, a large por­tion of which would be lever­aged invest­ments from the pri­vate sec­tor. Sanders’ plan goes much, much fur­ther. It guar­an­tees a $16.3 tril­lion invest­ment through 2030 to rad­i­cally reshape Amer­i­can life and address the cli­mate crisis.

The plan itself doesn’t focus on where the money will come from, though the cam­paign did say it would come in part from new taxes on the rich, rais­ing rev­enue from the plan itself, reduced social safety net costs, and a few other sources. Instead, it focuses on who gets the money. The plan com­mits tril­lions of dol­lars to grants for low– and middle-​​income fam­i­lies to do every­thing from home weath­er­iza­tion to buy­ing a new elec­tric vehi­cle, and it would cre­ate a whole new host of pub­licly owned energy and inter­net infra­struc­ture. It also uses lan­guage like “we will spend,” “we plan to pro­vide,” and “give.” I’m not going all bUt HoW wIlL wE pAy FoR iT, given that we need a liv­able planet, but the lan­guage and the recip­i­ents them­selves are the mes­sage: This is a god­damn revolution.

Among the out­lays, Sanders would com­mit $2.37 tril­lion to renew­able energy and stor­age, which the plan says would be enough of an invest­ment to meet the country’s energy needs. Any renew­able energy the gov­ern­ment gen­er­ates would be pub­licly owned, and a Sanders admin­is­tra­tion would pri­or­i­tize sell­ing it to pub­licly owned util­i­ties and coop­er­a­tives at cur­rent rates to keep costs down. The cam­paign esti­mates that alone would raise $6.4 tril­lion of the $16.3 tril­lion needed to fund the tran­si­tion. The plan high­lights this under a bul­let point about need­ing to “end greed in our energy system.”

To that end, the plan also says Sanders would instruct the Depart­ment of Jus­tice (DOJ) to go after fos­sil fuel com­pa­nies for both civil and crim­i­nal penal­ties. So far, cases wind­ing through the state court sys­tems have largely failed to hold Big Oil account­able for lying to every­one from the pub­lic to share­hold­ers. There may be a fed­eral prece­dent, though.

Michael Ger­rard, the direc­tor of the Sabin Cen­ter for Cli­mate Change Law, told Earther that Sanders “is try­ing to repli­cate and go beyond what hap­pened in 2006, when after a lengthy trial DOJ obtained the civil con­vic­tion of eleven major tobacco com­pa­nies under the Rack­e­teer Influ­enced Cor­rupt Orga­ni­za­tion (RICO).” The result of that case changed how Big Tobacco could adver­tise and forced them to issue cor­rec­tive state­ments about the adverse effects of smok­ing, though no fines were levied. I would ven­ture to guess a Sanders’ DOJ would hope for a stronger outcome.

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