Americans are living, and dying, in the path of unprecedented flooding, raging wildfires, and battering storms driven by Earth’s changing climate. Regardless of the origins of our predicament, we have inherited these conditions. It falls to us to set aside past disagreements and rise together to meet this challenge.
The principles outlined here, and in greater detail at Tonko.house.gov/climate, are meant to provide a framework that moves the lines of our agreement forward and help us build a comprehensive national climate action plan together. This is an appeal to everyone who takes solving the climate crisis seriously. As more detailed policy conversations continue, these nine principles represent the essential components that need to be considered as we work to design proposals and build consensus around solutions.
As we assess the ideas before us, no options should be off the table. Rather, I submit that any climate proposal we consider should be measured against these principles:
1. Set scientific targets for greenhouse gas neutrality by mid-century. Congress must enact policies that set certain and enforceable targets to put the United States on a path toward achieving net zero emissions by no later than mid-century.
2. A clean U.S. economy must be strong, competitive, and fair. Congress must ensure emerging clean energy industries provide fair wages and safe working conditions. It must also protect America’s energy-intensive and trade-exposed industries from anti-competitive behavior by other nations.
3. Invest in America’s sustainable economic future. Federal climate action requires congressional support for innovations in technology, policy, and finance to accelerate the clean energy transition and bring down costs of economy-wide decarbonization.
4. Deliver a just and equitable transition. Federal climate policies should invest in opportunities and support for communities in high-pollution and climate-exposed areas, as well as provide due consideration and support for workers and communities that have been dependent on traditional energy industries.
5. Protect low-income households. Federal climate policy should avoid disproportionate burdens on vulnerable people.
6. Build stronger community resilience to new climate realities. Federal climate policies should ensure that all Americans are protected from climate-related harms, regardless of where they live.
7. Empower state, local, tribal, and territorial governments. These are often in the best position to enact innovative policies to manage or prevent climate change—and many already have.
8. Avoid harm to first movers. Federal climate policy should, to the extent possible, complement work already being done by states, municipalities, businesses, and individuals, and avoid penalizing entities that have taken early action.
9. Create stable and predictable policies. Federal climate action must create steady, credible, and politically durable policies, send strong investment signals, and deliver long-term certainty to allow for proper planning and implementation while minimizing compliance costs.
These principles reflect extensive conversations with members of Congress and stakeholders. I encourage you to review the full document and welcome your feedback.