Legislation introduced by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Thursday is being heralded by a number of organizations who say it marks a needed step towards transitioning away from fossil fuels and supporting climate justice.
The legislation, the Climate Protection and Justice Act (pdf), would cut total emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050; institute a carbon tax, the proceeds of which would go to the bottom 80% of households making less than $100,000/year; and establish a Climate Justice Resiliency Council that would provide grants to areas "disproportionately affected by climate impacts or other hazards that lead to negative public health effects, exposure, or environmental degradation."
Speaking on the Senate floor, Sanders said, "It is absolutely vital that we do what many economists tell us we must and that is put a price on carbon. It is the simplest and most direct way to make the kind of cuts in carbon pollution that we have got to make if we are going to successfully transition away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency and sustainable energy."
The bill, as well as other legislation introduced by Sanders this week—the American Clean Energy Investment Act of 2015 and The Clean Energy Worker Just Transition Act—garnered praise from environmental campaigners including Friends of the Earth, Environmental Action, and the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment.
"Unlike Cap and Trade’s false solutions," said Brent Newell, Legal Director of the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment, "this Act will aggressively reduce climate pollution, redirect money back to the public, and support those communities most in need."
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Anthony Rogers-Wright, policy and organizing director at Environmental Action, stressed that "time is running out to act on climate," and added that the legislation "is one of the first bills I’ve seen that would put us on offense to fight humanity’s greatest challenge, climate change."
Friends of the Earth and FOE Action President Erich Pica added, "As the world watches leaders negotiate a climate deal in Paris," referring to the UN climate talks known as COP21, "it is clear that the United States needs to promote environmental health, workers' rights, and justice over the profits of Fossil Fuel Empires."
"With this new suite of legislation," Pica continued, "Senator Sanders is recognizing the need to rapidly transition to a new economy. Senator Sanders' bills protect workers and communities while helping to build a clean energy economy on the principles of equity and justice."
The presidential candidate, who calls climate change "the single greatest threat facing our planet," also made a stop at The Tonight Show on Tuesday, where he told host Jimmy Fallon, "We have a moral obligation for our children and our grandchildren to leave them a planet that they can enjoy."