Energy, Climate Experts Call on Presidential Candidates to Lay Out Their Plans for Clean Energy Leadership

December 7, 2015 | 8:54 am
Peter Frumhoff
Former Director of Science and Policy and Chief Climate Scientist

I’m writing from the Paris climate negotiations to share with you some exciting news:

Today, 74 of our nation’s leading clean energy and climate experts have released a letter  urging U.S. presidential candidates to “endorse and build upon the U.S. commitments at the international climate Conference of the Parties (COP21)” and “put our nation on a path to a vibrant economy free of carbon pollution by mid-century.”  Signers of the letter include Nobel Laureate and former Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, climate scientists Katharine Hayhoe and Chris Field, environmental justice expert Robert Bullard, and former Assistant Secretary of State and climate and business policy leader Eileen Claussen. The letter was organized by the Union of Concerned Scientists on behalf of the signers.

Why this letter, and why now? COP21 is a major milestone in driving the global transition to a carbon free, safe climate future: some 180 nations, collectively emitting more than 90 percent of the world’s heat-trapping carbon pollution, have come here committed to limit future emissions.  But COP21 is also a stepping stone. The initial emissions limits are still modest; success will ultimately depend on whether future leaders can vigorously meet and exceed them, accelerating our global transition to a clean energy economy.

energy-independence-in-america-flag-over-solar-panelsAccording to these leading experts, “As the world’s largest economy and largest historical emitter of heat-trapping gases, the United States has a special responsibility to provide leadership and an economic opportunity to be gained by doing so.” It is well within the reach of the next U.S. president “to help set our nation and the world on a clear course toward a robust, clean economy free from carbon pollution. There is no time to waste. “

As the U.S. presidential primary campaign season heats up, signers intend this letter to provide fodder for questions to candidates in debates and town hall meetings in primary states, building demand among voters to expect all candidates to have clear and convincing answers about their commitment to a clean energy future. These answers should be informed by an understanding that, as the letter states, “the global transformation of our energy system away from fossil fuels is both a moral imperative, grounded in science, and one of the greatest economic opportunities of our time.”

The letter calls on the next U.S. president to “vigorously pursue a set of key goals,” including:

  • Exceeding the U.S. pledge to reduce emissions 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025
  • Putting a price on carbon and phasing out fossil energy subsidies
  • Modernizing our antiquated energy transmission, distribution, and transportation systems
  • Increasing investment in clean energy research and development
  • Expanding international partnerships for clean energy adoption
  • Increasing the preparedness of vulnerable communities at home and abroad for now unavoidable impacts of climate change

Read the full text of the letter and list of signers. Now it’s up to the candidates to heed the message and up to all of us to encourage them to do so.