President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris successfully ran a campaign that made combating the climate crisis a top priority, showing that voters want leaders who will protect our environment and build a just economy. And, as innumerable polls predicted, young people responded to this bold call for action and voted in record numbers throughout the country.
Now, it is time for the new administration to follow through on its promises and for us to hold our leaders accountable. The president got off to a good start, keeping his ”Day One” promise to rejoin the Paris climate agreement within a few hours of being sworn into office. But now that we’re committed once again to this global agreement, what happens next?
The New Administration Has An Opportunity to Enact Ambitious Climate Plans
Rejoining the Paris Agreement is just the beginning of a long fight for climate action that awaits us. First, the U.S. needs to set an ambitious and credible emissions target – a Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) – in the range of 50% below 2005 levels by 2030. This will put the U.S. on a path towards net zero emissions by 2050, aligned with science and the Paris Agreement, but it will require a full government effort, including administrative and Congressional action. We need to take bold and swift steps to transition to a 100% clean economy as soon as possible.
The United States Can Be an International Leader on Climate
We can’t stop with these actions at home, however, as the climate crisis transcends national boundaries and so do the solutions to tackle it. The United States should step up as a leader and foster international collaborations to fight this global crisis. Now is the time for our leaders to play a significant role on the global stage in building climate ambition around the world, enabling the implementation of climate solutions and achieving the global goals in accordance with the Paris Agreement. This, too, is a role the president seems eager to play, announcing his intention to host an international climate summit on Earth Day this year.
Environmental Justice Must be at the Center of Biden’s Climate Agenda – Here, and Abroad
Systemic injustice directly leads to the consequences and causes of climate change. So we must also address issues like environmental justice and racial equity. These are urgent moral imperatives that young people are deeply concerned about. It is readily apparent that we need to keep equity and justice at the center of all the decision-making for climate solutions as well. This means implementing robust domestic policies to support and uplift low income communities and communities of color, who are most impacted by environmental injustices. And we should use our leadership platform on the world stage to be an ally to the developing nations, which the United States should advocate for and enable an equitable and just transition globally.
We Need All Hands on Deck – The Private Sector Must Lead on Climate Action, as well
Lastly, it is imperative that business leaders step up to accelerate the transition to a 100% clean economy through innovation, collaboration, ambitious action and policy advocacy.
Since June 2017, around 2300 business leaders and investors took the We Are Still In pledge — a public commitment to maintaining their support for and compliance with the goals of the Paris Agreement. The year ahead will be a testing ground for these business leaders and our lawmakers who would play a crucial role as drivers of our economy. Are they “still in” now, and if so are they “all in” on climate?
We can make a difference here, too, by holding companies accountable the way we would our lawmakers. As employees, we can push our companies to make better choices. As consumers, we can choose to support companies and products that are doing their part to solve the crisis. (Read more to learn how you can wield your influence.)
People under 35 are the biggest group of consumers, workers, and yes voters in the country, and we have the power to make change happen if we lift up our voices and demand that all of society – our society – comes together for change. It’s time to act.