What's Next? The Environmental Movement Post-Election

As you can imagine, I am very excited about the election results. I completely agree with my colleague Cathy Duvall, the Sierra Club Political Director, who said that "'New Energy for America' trumped 'Drill, baby, drill'" and that "During his campaign, Barack Obama spoke of investing in clean energy to create jobs, secure energy independence, and fight global warming - and Americans clearly approved that message."

And now that we've celebrated the results, it's time to talk about what we will be doing during the new Obama Administration.

All of us at the Sierra Club and the many environmental organizations out there are discussing the next steps for the environmental movement now that we have a strong leader in the White House and a strong environmental majority in the House and Senate. The bottom line for all of us: The steps we need to take to help our economy recover will also help our climate recover, and we will work together in that overlap.We're already excited by the changes we'll see in the philosophy of the government. Now we can count on more accountability and transparency in the process, and more enforcement of environmental laws. We now expect a more open public comment process, and we're especially looking forward to a return to science-backed rules and regulations.

For the overlap of economy and environment that I mentioned - here's how we expect to work with the new Congress and administration:

Investing in clean energy to create millions of new jobs. Obama's own energy plan talks about a minimum of $150 billion over 10 years to invest directly into clean energy to create 5 million new jobs.

Reducing our dependence on oil by making cars go farther on a gallon of gas, and increasing the use of alternative fuels and innovative transportation technology.
Moving America to renewable energy for electricity and dramatically increasing the efficiency of our buildings and homes.

Finally tackling global climate change by establishing an economy-wide cap on carbon emissions and ensuring that carbon permits are auctioned -- not given away.

In addition, we will push for action that acknowledges the consequences of global warming already occurring, and that addresses the need to protect communities, wildlife and their habitat from drought, intense flooding, wildfires and the other changes we are already experiencing.

Want something faster than that? Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope and I have been discussing what we think are the first two major steps the new Obama Administration could take to demonstrate that the U.S. is serious about global warming and the environment -- prior to the 2009 climate talks in Copenhagen.

With just two changes we can make a large dent in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and, in doing so, give the president the credibility he will need to negotiate with the rest of the world.  First, reverse the refusal to treat carbon dioxide as an air pollutant under the Clean Air Act, which then requires us to set emissions standards for new and existing power plants.

Second, approve California's vehicle GHG emission standards and adopt California's standards as national ones.  These actions alone will place significant limits on almost half of U.S. GHG emissions.

If you'd like to read more about what we think of the election results and what we want to do right away with the Obama Administration and Congress, check out Carl Pope over on the New York Times Green Inc. Blog, where he answers questions about what this election means for the environment in the next four years.

Image credit:The Age, 'winds of change,' Rob Banks

More thoughts for the future from our archive.
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