WASHINGTON — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders rolled out a plan to slow the effect of climate change on Monday, vowing to cut U.S. carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2030 and confront the influence of the oil industry.
The Democratic presidential candidate said he would seek to impose a tax on carbon dioxide pollution, long a nonstarter with majority Republicans in Congress, and aim to slash carbon pollution in the U.S. by 80 percent by 2050 compared to levels in 1990. Railing against the fossil fuels industry, he said his approach would put "people before the profits of polluters."
"Right now, we have an energy policy that is rigged to boost the profits of big oil companies like Exxon, BP and Shell at the expense of average Americans," Sanders said, accusing executives of "raking in record profits while climate change ravages our planet and our people."
Sanders has made efforts to reduce global warming a cornerstone of his presidential campaign and his 16-page proposal, released as negotiators meet at the U.N. climate conference in Paris, provides the first extensive details on how he would seek to address it.
Democrats view climate change as part of a winning formula against Republicans in the 2016 elections, and Sanders' primary opponents, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, have offered wide-ranging environmental plans. Many Republican candidates have been dismissive of global warming despite public support for efforts to combat it.
Sanders' plan sets goals of creating a 100 percent clean-energy system sustained by wind and solar power but does not specify a timetable for doing so. It estimated the clean energy sector would create 10 million jobs, and his plan would also seek to protect low-income and minority communities, which have been adversely affected by massive storms like Hurricane Katrina.
The proposal would seek a "just transition" for those currently working in the energy sector to switch over to jobs in renewable energy, offering extended unemployment benefits, educational opportunities, health care and job training. But it comes as workers in the energy and mining sector have lost more than 100,000 jobs in the past year, according to the government, as oil prices have declined.
Eric Wohlschlegel, a spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute, said the industry creates millions of jobs in the U.S., "generating billions in revenue for the government, and we are leading the world in reducing carbon emissions. We are second to no one. Denial of this reality is preposterous and it does a disservice to our nation's pursuit of long-term energy security and to the thousands of families who rely on affordable and reliable energy."
Sanders would seek to repeal billions in tax subsidies to oil, gas and other fossil fuel producers, which President Barack Obama has unsuccessfully sought throughout his presidency.
The plan would also attempt to build upon Obama's work to promote more fuel efficiency in the nation's cars and trucks. Sanders would seek to raise fuel efficiency standards to 65 miles per gallon for passenger cars by 2025, a higher level compared to current plans to reach 54.5 miles per gallon for the 2025 model year.
Annie Leonard, executive director of Greenpeace USA, said in a statement provided by the campaign that Sanders' plan showed he "has broken free of the corporate and 1 percent money that has held back climate policy for far too long."