The League urged Congress to consider the following principles as the 116th Congress debates climate change legislation. Please note this is not an endorsement of specific legislation and not all of the stated principles are consistent with League positions, but a bold agenda to address climate change is necessary to protect our country and our planet.
January 10, 2019
Re: Legislation to Address the Urgent Threat of Climate Change
On behalf of our millions of members and supporters, we are writing today to urge you to consider the following principles as the 116th Congress debates climate change legislation and momentum around the country builds for a Green New Deal. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently warned, if we are to keep global warming below 1.5°C, we must act aggressively and quickly. At a minimum, reaching that target requires visionary and affirmative legislative action in the following areas:
Halt all fossil fuel leasing, phase out all fossil fuel extraction, and end fossil fuel and other dirty energy subsidies.
The science is clear that fossil fuels must be kept in the ground. Pursuing new fossil fuel projects at this moment in history is folly. Most immediately, the federal government must stop selling off or leasing publicly owned lands, water, and mineral rights for development to fossil fuel producers. The government must also stop approving fossil fuel power plants and infrastructure projects. We must reverse recent legislation that ended the 40-year ban on the export of crude oil, end the export of all other fossil fuels, and overhaul relevant statutes that govern fossil fuel extraction in order to pursue a managed decline of fossil fuel production. Further, the federal government must immediately end the massive, irrational subsidies and other financial support that fossil fuel, and other dirty energy companies (such as nuclear, waste incineration and biomass energy) continue to receive both domestically and overseas.
Transition power generation to 100% renewable energy.
As the United States shifts away from fossil fuels, we must simultaneously ramp up energy efficiency and transition to clean, renewable energy to power the nation’s economy where, in addition to excluding fossil fuels, any definition of renewable energy must also exclude all combustion-based power generation, nuclear, biomass energy, large scale hydro and waste-to-energy technologies. To achieve this, the United States must shift to 100 percent renewable power generation by 2035 or earlier. This shift will necessitate upgrading our electricity grid to be smart, efficient, and decentralized, with the ability to incorporate battery to electricity into the twenty-first century, encouraging public and community ownership overpower infrastructure and electricity choice, as well as permitting distributed energy sources, including rooftop and community solar programs to supply the grid.
Expand public transportation and phase out fossil fuel vehicles.
As the transition away from fossil fuels occurs, our transportation system must also undergo 100 percent decarbonization. To accomplish a fossil-fuel-free reality, Congress must require and fund greater investment in renewable-energy-powered public transportation that serves the people who need it most. The United States must also phase out the sale of automobiles and trucks with internal fossil fuel combustion engines as quickly as possible and phase out all existing fossil fuel mobile sources by 2040 or earlier. Federal credits for electric vehicles must be expanded.
Harness the full power of the Clean Air Act.
The Clean Air Act provides powerful tools that have proven successful in protecting the air we breathe and reducing greenhouse pollution. It can also serve as an important backstop to ensure climate targets are met. Congress should harness the full power of the statute by setting strict deadlines and providing adequate funding for EPA to carry out all its duties under all applicable sections of the Act, including implementing greenhouse pollution reduction requirements for cars, trucks, aircraft, ships, smokestacks and other sources, as well as a science-based national pollution cap. The Act has successfully reduced many air pollutants and can do the same for greenhouse pollution.
Ensure a Just Transition led by impacted communities and workers.
In effectuating this energy transformation, it is critical to prioritize support for communities who have historically been harmed first and most by the dirty energy economy and workers in the energy sector and related industries. We support a comprehensive economic plan to drive job growth and invest in a new green economy that is designed, built and governed by communities and workers. Building new energy, waste, transportation and housing infrastructure, designed to serve climate resilience and human needs; retrofitting millions of buildings to conserve energy and other resources; and, actively restoring natural ecosystems to protect communities from climate change, are but a few ways to build a sustainable, low carbon economy where no one is left behind during this change.
Uphold Indigenous Rights
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) must be upheld and implemented, along with treaties, instruments and decisions of international law that recognize that Indigenous Peoples have the right to give or withhold “free, prior and informed consent” to legislation and development of their lands, territories and/or natural resources, cultural properties and heritage, and other interests, and to receive remedies of losses and damages of property taken without consent.
Further, we will vigorously oppose any legislation that: (1) rolls back existing environmental, health, and other protections, (2) protects fossil fuel and other dirty energy polluters from liability, or (3) promotes corporate schemes that place profits over community burdens and benefits, including market-based mechanisms and technology options such as carbon and emissions trading and offsets, carbon capture and storage, nuclear power, waste-to-energy and biomass energy. Fossil fuel companies should pay their fair share for damages caused by climate change, rather than shifting those costs to taxpayers.
We look forward to working with you to address the gravest environmental crisis humanity has ever faced, to protect all present and future generations around the world, while centering the rights of those communities and workers most impacted.
(see full list of signers in attached)