Commentary: Today, Beto O’Rourke released a bold and ambitious plan to confront the existential threat of climate change and invest in our communities. The plan is built around a four-part framework: 1) implementing a slate of forceful Day One executive actions to start cutting pollution across all sectors of the U.S. economy at the outset of an O’Rourke Administration; 2) mobilizing $5 trillion over 10 years — spurred by the single largest investment in fighting climate change in history — to transform our aging infrastructure, accelerate innovation, and empower our people and communities to lead the climate fight; 3) working with Congress to enact a legally enforceable standard to guarantee the U.S. achieves net-zero emissions by 2050 and gets half way there by 2030; and 4) taking significant actions to defend communities that are preparing for and fighting fires, floods, droughts, hurricanes, and other devastating climate impacts.
Beto is highlighting his plan during events throughout California’s Central Valley — a region that is not only experiencing the damaging impacts of climate change, but also unlocking many of the answers to help solve the crisis. On Sunday, Beto met with firefighters in Mariposa County who have been on the frontlines of combating ever-worsening wildfires. Today, he will participate in a walking tour of Yosemite National Park before visiting Modesto Junior College for a tour and climate change roundtable with local farmers, innovators, educators and advocates. Beto will continue listening to and learning from Americans about their ideas to fight climate change and outline additional elements supporting his framework in the months ahead.
“The greatest threat we face — which will test our country, our democracy, every single one of us — is climate change. We have one last chance to unleash the ingenuity and political will of hundreds of millions of Americans to meet this moment before it's too late,” said O’Rourke. “The actions we’re announcing today will help us get there — by wasting no time cutting pollution, making historic investments in infrastructure, innovation, and our communities, setting bold emissions targets, and defending those most at risk from the dangers and destruction of climate change.”
As part of the four-part framework, Beto would not just re-enter the Paris Agreement but lead on setting more ambitious global goals for 2030 and beyond; set a 2030 net-zero emissions target for federal lands and stop all new leasing on- and off-shore; invest more than $200 billion in research with the most promise to help us achieve our emissions targets; and increase funding for cost-effective pre-disaster mitigation grants and the federal crop-insurance program.
Beto’s plan aligns with the 2050 emissions goal of the Green New Deal, sets us on a path to grow our economy and shrink inequality, and reflects the ambition and urgency of organizers, activists, and young people all across the country. As president, Beto would pay for and implement his plan through a combination of legislative and executive actions. The investments in his framework will be funded by structural changes to the tax code to ensure that corporations and the wealthiest among us pay their fair share and by finally ending the tens of billions of dollars of tax breaks currently given to fossil fuel companies.
Throughout his years of public service, Beto has been a leader on environmental and climate justice issues both in his community of El Paso and across the country. In 2007, when the American Smelting and Refining Company (ASARCO) sought to reopen its El Paso copper smelting facility — which had been exposing El Pasoans to unsafe levels of lead and other chemicals for nearly a century — Beto played a pivotal role in opposing the company’s attempt to keep profiting off of poisoning one of the poorest communities in America. Even after the facility was permanently shuttered, Beto continued to fight on behalf of former ASARCO employees by supporting health studies for the workers and advocating before state and federal agencies for the compensation they deserved. In 2008, shortly after the Department of Interior proposed opening the Otero Mesa to oil and gas exploration, Beto spurred the El Paso City Council into action, demanding that Congress provide permanent protection to these unique grasslands.
Arriving in Congress in 2012, Beto continued his advocacy for a wide range of environmental issues. He has repeatedly stood against efforts to deny the reality of climate change, cosponsoring legislation to protest the withdrawal from the Paris Agreement and voting time and again against efforts to limit the regulation of greenhouse gases. When President Obama’s Clean Power Plan was challenged, Beto opposed legislative efforts to repeal the plan and also submitted a legal brief with his colleagues defending it in the Supreme Court. Hailing from a state that is the nation’s largest producer of wind energy and has significant solar energy potential, Beto has been a forceful advocate for federal investments in renewable energy.
Beto has also been a champion of our public lands, sponsoring bills in Congress that would prohibit drilling for fossil fuels in the Arctic Ocean, protect public land in Utah, and make substantial investments in the National Park Service. Most recently, Beto introduced legislation, which President Trump signed into law, that would protect the Castner Range — 7,000 acres of ecologically-important land surrounded by the Franklin Mountains in the Chihuahuan Desert.