Young people are concerned about climate change and how it will impact our communities, public health, and economic future—and we are not alone in recognizing the urgency of this crisis: experts say that if we don’t take substantial action to protect our climate, our entire global ecosystem could begin collapsing beyond repair within 30 years. Climate change is real and poses a significant threat to human health and well-being—including health, jobs, housing, education, reproductive choices, and general quality of life. As a signatory of the Equitable and Just National Climate Platform, Generation Progress reaffirms our shared belief that, “all people and all communities have the right to breathe clean air, live free of dangerous levels of toxic pollution, have access to healthy food, and share the benefits of a prosperous and vibrant clean economy.” All young people have a climate crisis story to share. Our generations and the children we are raising will inherit this planet—we need it to be healthy in order to survive.
Low-income and tribal communities, as well as communities of color, are increasingly and disproportionately affected by climate change. These same communities also have the fewest resources to prepare for and recover from its harms. Our generation can change that. Young people believe in bold climate action that confronts racial, economic, reproductive, and environmental injustice. Solving the climate crisis calls for us to build a fair economy and confront the racism and economic inequality that has prevented equal access to clean air, clean water, health care, and sustainable wages for far too long. The communities that bear the greatest burdens of the climate crisis from pollution and environmental racism, also known as frontline communities, must be at the forefront of any and all solutions. To that end, we are calling for a national climate policy agenda that reduces pollution, invests in frontline communities, strengthens our democracy, and moves us towards a 100% clean energy economy.
The Biden administration has already taken significant steps towards this clean energy future by enacting several executive orders that strengthen environmental protections, prioritize environmental justice, direct investments toward the communities that need it most, and invest in quality clean energy jobs. President Biden has also shown his commitment to climate action by nominating climate champions to key cabinet positions. Given this momentum, we are advocating for sustained efforts to address the climate crisis and environmental injustice throughout the administration and all levels of government.
Below are nine key priorities we feel must be addressed in order to achieve a just future for all:
- Center environmental justice: Center environmental justice and economic justice in all climate planning and policy. Recognize that climate change, racial justice, and economic justice are inextricably linked, and support policies that work to advance both climate solutions and racial and economic justice.
- Act with urgency: Aggressively address climate change to achieve a 100% clean energy economy no later than 2050, including 100% carbon-free electricity by 2035.
- Create good jobs: Grow an economy that works for everyone, and support the creation of clean energy jobs, particularly in environmental justice and frontline communities.
- Ensure 40% for justice: In any COVID-19 relief packages or long-term economic stimulus packages, prioritize directing 40% of climate investment benefits to environmental justice communities as committed to by the Biden administration’s executive order.
- Center climate diplomacy and employ a whole-of-government approach: Put climate change at the center of US foreign policy and integrate climate into federal agency decision-making. Rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement is just step one in a much longer path to a clean energy economy. The US will have to re-design and redefine our Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) — how much we are committing to reduce emissions for the Paris Climate Agreement. We want this NDC to be ambitious and impactful in urging other countries to take bold climate action.
- Reduce pollution, improve public health: Recognize the linkages between climate change and public health, and support policies and initiatives that benefit both public health and the environment by reducing pollution.
- Protect 30×30: Protect American waters and lands. If we conserve 30 percent of the country’s lands and waters by 2030, we can fight climate change and reverse the destruction of our wildlife, waters, and natural places. (This principle is often referred to as “30×30”.)
- Bolster community resilience: Create resilience within environmental justice communities and farming communities. These communities must be strengthened to withstand and respond to the climate crisis.
- Reform and protect democracy: Advocate for the passage of H.R. 1 – the For The People Act. A functioning democracy paves the way for successful climate response.