WASHINGTON, D.C. – In case you missed it, yesterday, U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW), spoke on the Senate floor to highlight the Clean Economy Act, his legislation with 33 Senate cosponsors that would empower the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to both set and move the country toward a national goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by no later than 2050.
The world’s leading scientists have warned that humanity must limit global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change. Under this administration, however, EPA has used its existing tools and authorities to increase global warming pollution instead of decreasing it.
“It’s shameful that this president has forsaken our country’s leadership in this fight for our one and only planet – that this president has abandoned our global allies for the sake of misplaced political gain. That abdication of leadership will be a dark, indelible stain on his legacy,” Senator Carper said. “But while President Trump may not be up for the climate challenge, my colleagues and I are here to say to the world that a majority of Americans are ready for it. We have faith in American innovation and the American worker to take on the climate fight.”
“The Clean Economy Act will put the United States on a path to once again lead the world in the fight against climate change while lifting up American communities and workers,” he continued.
For a full video of Senator Carper’s floor speech, click here. To download his remarks, click here. Below are Senator Carper’s remarks, as prepared for delivery.
“Mr. President, I rise today with a message to my colleagues and to the world.
“Climate change has become the greatest threat to our planet.
“This image here was designed by climate scientist Ed Hawkins. From left to right, these ‘Warming Stripes’ visualize our planet’s annual average temperature from 1850 to 2018. What this design fails to capture is just how menacing these rising temperatures have been and will continue to be for our planet—and what that means for all of us who inhabit it.
“Our rising seas are already at the highest levels ever recorded. Our nation’s leading scientists have warned us that if we fail to start seriously reducing carbon emissions now, by the end of the century, we may well witness sea levels rise another six feet. For America alone, that would result in an estimated $3.6 trillion in cumulative damages to our country’s coastal properties and infrastructure over the next 70 years.
“While global temperatures warm, ice caps melt and sea levels rise, we also know that the extreme weather we’re witnessing throughout the world will only get worse. The devastating hurricanes and typhoons, torrential rains and catastrophic floods, the heatwaves and drought-fueled wildfires will only become more dangerous and more disruptive to our economies and daily lives.
“This year, the world watched in horror as bushfires scorched millions of acres of forest in Australia—an area the size of my native state, West Virginia. At least 25 people died in those bushfires, including three American firefighters. Experts initially estimated that 500 million animals died in those bushfires. More recently, it was estimated that 1 billion animals died. One billion.
“Our country has been no stranger to the tragedy and devastation caused by wildfires fueled by drought and heat, like those that continue to plague the state of California. And scientists tell us that, by 2050, we could face wildfire seasons that burn up to six times more forest area each year than today.
“If we do nothing to address carbon emissions, the extreme weather events we’re experiencing now will pale in comparison to the devastation that lies ahead.
“Last year, 13 agencies across the Trump Administration released a report that predicted that the United States could see climate-related losses of up to $500 billion annually by the end of this century. If we do nothing, the effects from climate change could slash up to 10 percent of our gross domestic product by the next century, more than double the losses of the Great Recession.
“In order to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change, the world’s leading scientists have warned us that we need to limit global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. Period. To do that, humanity would need to collectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by mid-century.
“Right now, we’re not on track to meet that goal—and we’re dangerously close to losing our only shot. As the latest UN’s annual Emissions Gap Report made clear, collective global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are falling short and time is running out. If we want to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change, we need to step up.
“The climate crisis is one that can be solved only by everyone who shares this planet coming together and working together as one. That’s why nearly 200 nations came together in common cause to implement the Climate Paris Agreement, and why they’re working together to find solutions to the climate crisis.
“But instead of leading the world in this fight, America stands alone.
“We know the EPA already has the authority and tools to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but under the Trump Administration, EPA’s policies have been used to increase – not decrease – harmful emissions. President Trump is putting America in the slow lane while much of the rest of the world races toward a global clean economy.
“President Trump claims Americans must choose between a healthy economy and a healthier planet. In the words of one good friend of mine, that’s malarkey. Or, in the words of our president, that’s… you fill in the blank.
“Choosing between environmental progress and economic growth is a false choice. On the other hand, we do face a very real choice, one that was made clear in the UN report released this past December. We either act now on climate change, or, quote, ‘we face the consequences of a planet that has been radically altered by climate change.’ Close quote.
“I say, let’s choose to save our one and only planet – and I say it’s time the U.S. once again leads the world in this fight.
“Yesterday, I introduced legislation with the support of 33 of my colleagues that will put the United States on a path to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. The Clean Economy Act heeds the call for bold climate action while fostering economic growth that is fair for everyone.
“The Clean Economy Act empowers EPA to use the authorities and tools already at its disposal to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by no later than mid-century. This is the quickest way we can jumpstart government-wide climate action, by empowering agencies to use the tools they already have.
“The Clean Economy Act builds upon successful climate programs in states, cities and private companies and ensures that economy-wide climate actions continue, regardless of who sits in the Oval Office.
“Our legislation sets important guardrails to make sure all Americans reap the benefits as we move the country toward net-zero emissions. Here are just three example of those protections:
First, EPA must maximize greenhouse gas emissions reductions while minimizing costs to consumers and providing regulatory flexibility to industry.
Second, EPA must consider and protect frontline communities. We know climate change disproportionately affects impoverished and disadvantaged communities, communities of color and indigenous communities.
More often than not, these communities are downstream or downwind from dangerous pollution, located near industrial facilities or factories, or located in areas that are already experiencing flooding and extreme weather fueled by climate change. This legislation will prioritize input from and investment in those communities.
And, third, the Clean Economy Act focuses on American competitiveness and the American worker.
Our legislation compels EPA to use American workers, domestic materials and strong labor standards to get the job done – relying on our country’s talents to make the transition to net-zero emissions by no later than 2050.
The Clean Economy Act also requires EPA to work with other federal agencies on programs to protect and uplift communities and workers displaced or dislocated by our transition to a cleaner economy.
“This legislation would not come at the expense of jobs or economic growth. Moving toward a clean economy will drive innovation and create millions of new jobs here at home. The Clean Economy Act is about realizing our true economic potential. Potential that, under this administration, has gone untapped.
“The Clean Economy Act hits the sweet spot between organized labor, business community and environmental group support. I want to thank the many organizations who helped us in crafting this bill, including the Environmental Defense Fund, Moms Clean Air Force, the League of Conservation Voters, NRDC, Environment America, the BlueGreen Alliance, the Utility Workers. I also want to again thank the organizations who joined me yesterday in unveiling the legislation: United Steelworkers, Sierra Club, the National Wildlife Federation and CERES.
“To say the least, it is disappointing that President Trump has decided to abandon the tremendous economic opportunity to create millions of clean energy jobs, along with the public health benefits that come with having cleaner air to breathe and a healthier planet to call home.
“It’s shameful that this president has forsaken our country’s leadership in this fight for our one and only planet – that this president has abandoned our global allies for the sake of misplaced political gain. That abdication of leadership will be a dark, indelible stain on his legacy.
“But while President Trump may not be up for the climate challenge, my colleagues and I are here to say to the world that a majority of Americans are ready for it. We have faith in American innovation and the American worker to take on the climate fight.
“The Clean Economy Act will put the United States on a path to once again lead the world in the fight against climate change while lifting up American communities and workers. This bill corrects our president’s failure to lead on this issue, and directs EPA and other agencies to move swiftly to address this serious problem.
“Famed economist John Kenneth Galbraith once said: ‘All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership.’
“The Clean Economy Act is our message to the rest of the world about climate leadership: The United States is preparing to once again lead the fight against this climate crisis.
“America, let’s roll!”