The climate crisis is a significant contributing factor to many conflicts and refugee situations around the globe, putting Americans abroad - and all global citizens - at risk due to political insecurity. How will you ensure that the U.S. will reduce greenhouse gas emissions below Paris Accord targets and lead the global effort to avoid catastrophic climate breakdown and the global insecurity it would cause?
What do you think a U.S. President in early 2021 can do, independently of the cooperation of Congress or other countries, to respond to this crisis?
Climate change is one of the biggest threats to our global insecurity, our national security and our economy. My plan for dealing with climate change will work to combat all of these threats. Our biggest crisis regarding the climate emergency is humanity’s massive state of denial that it exists on the scale it does. Yet willingness to recognize the depth of the problem is prerequisite to our solving it. It is a psychological and moral challenge to face the horror of what stands before us over the next ten years should we not act; yet there - in our standing raw before the truth that it confronts us with - lies our only hope for surviving it.
And our environmental crisis is not only climate; it is also water, air, food and soil. Our earth is like a body beginning to experience an all systems breakdown. As president, I will treat the problem holistically. Global warming harms the weather patterns which harms agriculture and animals which harms people's capacity to live in certain areas which harms the city-to-rural ratio which harms social stability which creates a refugee crisis which altogether lead toward untold catastrophe. What is imperative is that we awaken now and take immediate, bold steps to change course.
What is necessary is a full scale climate emergency mobilization effort, not unlike the kind of effort undertaken by the United States during WW2. Without such an effort, the world will begin to see social collapse and mass starvation unprecedented during our lifetime. Climate disruption, if not itself disrupted, is on track to become "civilization-threatening." Refugee crises, extreme weather events, non-survivable global temperatures making certain places uninhabitable, global food crises, economic collapse -- none of those phrases are hyperbolic. They are warnings.
I understand that incremental change -even bold incremental change in regards to the climate crisis -is not enough to stave off environmental catastrophe. The American people must be informed of the severity of the problem, and enrolled in a massive national effort to deal with it.
We need policy change but we need more than that; we need a full-on systems change. We need to change the way we think about what's most important in life. We need to put the health and well-being of our people and our planet before the needs of an outmoded economic system. We must transition from a dirty economy to a clean economy. Period. Full stop.
In this as in so many areas, unwise action has led to the problem and taking wise action now will solve it.
There is a growing consensus in America that climate change is an existential emergency. But now our actions must align with our understanding. As President, I would argue, in no uncertain terms, that rapid, man-made climate change and global warming represents a clear and present danger to our people, to our democracy, and to the world at large. Beginning with the appointment of a world-class environmentalist rather than a fossil fuel or chemical company executive (as is now the case) to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, I would fundamentally reverse the current misuse of the EPA, whereby it serves mainly the cause of profit maximization for fossil fuel and chemical companies, and return it to its original mission of protection and advocacy on behalf of our natural environment. The full powers of the executive branch of the US government would be put in service to this effort.
As president, I will do more than direct a mass mobilization of technological efforts necessary to stave off climate catastrophe; I will harness a mass mobilization of the American people. For that will be necessary for us to achieve the kind of buy-in necessary to allow such massive change as is needed, to occur. This cannot be a Left versus Right, Democrat versus Republican, socialism versus capitalism conversation -- it is a survival versus full-scale human destruction conversation, and when the American people awaken to this then the American people will do what it takes to handle the challenge that confronts us. No president will be able to take the steps that are truly necessary, without that buy-in.
In fighting WW2, we were neither Republicans nor Democrats; we were Americans. In staving off climate catastrophe, we are neither Republicans nor Democrats either; we are patriotic Americans and responsible human beings.
As president, I will immediately re-enter the Paris Climate Accords — while simultaneously working to expand talks to push for even more meaningful and enforceable agreements. The United States will no longer be the rogue nation withdrawing from the international effort to stave off a massive climate-induced collapse; instead, we will be the world's leader in paving the way to new possibilities and new beginnings.
In 2015, we were one of 195 countries to support the important Paris agreement on Climate Change. The situation has gotten much worse since then. We should not only re-enter, but also lead a new push for the global transition to reduce and even sequester existing carbon from the atmosphere. Our urgent goal is not just to hold temperature increases as close as possible to where they are now, but instead to reverse global warming back to more long-term sustainable levels.
The United States and world must take unprecedented action between now and 2030 to actually bring the carbon we put in the atmosphere back into the earth where it came from—to reforest, transform our dirt back to soil on our farms, restore wetlands, peatlands, and increase phytoplankton and fisheries—among other critical measures.
The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, and the 4th US National Climate Assessment describe the dire consequences of failing to act to protect our population, our economy, and our world from climate change.
We are already seeing refugees fleeing extreme weather disasters, causing human calamities, unrest, and conflict. However, these reports simultaneously underscore the enormous opportunities for this nation if we lead in developing and adopting innovations.
Most of the debate right now focuses on keeping temperature rises to around 1.5C or 2C, but that is not sustainable, we actually need to reverse warming trends. While shifting away from fossil fuels towards cleaner energy sources gets the bulk of our attention in this area—there are numerous approaches we must take, in multiple sectors, to address climate change. Other critical areas include: reducing food waste, promoting a plant rich diet, protecting tropical forests, proper land management, regenerative agriculture and refrigerant management, among others. Even seemingly unrelated issues like educating women globally and family planning are known to be an important part of the solution.
Under a Williamson administration, we will take a full systems approach, helping to reverse global warming and lead the planet towards long-term sustainability.
When it comes to energy, the Williamson Administration will:
- Expand investments in clean, green energy.
- Reduce CO2 emissions to net zero by 2045 or earlier.
- Mirror ambitious, but realistic, efforts in the State of California. This Nation needs to set a goal to transition to cleaner energy as quickly as possible. This will send a message to the US market, large businesses, and utilities.
- Reinstate and expand energy and mileage efficiency investments. Conserving energy and making the most of our resources should not be a partisan issue. It is good for everyone. Our scientists and businesses are ready to help lead these efforts, but strong national leadership is essential.
- Extend federal incentives and rebates for renewable energy.
- Transition away from fossil fuel energy and halt all new fossil fuel projects. We must eliminate all fossil fuel subsidies and instead make massive investments in, and provide subsidies for, clean green solutions.
- Restart the Clean Power Plan to protect our health and clean air, while moving away from coal, which is costly, harmful to the air we breathe and to the land and water where it is mined and burned.
- Modernize our power grids immediately to pave the way for a dramatic increase in renewable energy sources. The electric power sector should be de-carbonized sooner than the rest of the economy – by 2040. Each state will be required to adopt a renewable portfolio standard which would start at the level of renewable electricity supplies in that state in 2020, and taper up to 100% by 2040. Electricity suppliers would be fined if they fall behind each year’s target.
- De-carbonize buildings by 2045. All older buildings would have to be upgraded to higher energy efficiency standards appropriate for that building type, and converted to electric space heating, cooking, and hot water technologies.
- Zero carbon from new buildings by 2028.
Ban all fracking operations (oil and gas). This will require planning for the workers and communities that will be most impacted by a transition away from fossil fuel extraction, processing and use called a “just transition.”
- End all new oil and gas leases in federal lands and waters. The Trump administration just recently weakened federal protections on 9 million acres in the West; this should be reversed.
- Stop all use of nuclear energy. We do not need nuclear energy to fulfill our energy needs.
- Address emissions caused by huge agribusinesses. Massive factory farms not only threaten and destroy the livelihoods of family farmers, but they are the largest producer of the most dangerous greenhouse gasses -- methane and nitrous oxide. Research suggests that even if we eliminate all fossil fuel use, we will still exceed our atmosphere's ability to repair itself due to large agribusiness practices. We must break up these conglomerates, return farming to families instead of factories, and explore every means possible of reducing the impact of animal agriculture on our environment.
- Require each industrial corporation to commit to a series of Greenhouse Gas Emissions Targets phasing down to 0% emissions in 2045. Each company will decide for itself how to meet those targets, but would be fined via income tax laws if the annual targets are not met.
- Increase research and development on new technologies. We do not need to wait for this research -- adequate technologies are currently available to proceed to strongly mitigate climate change -- but it is important for more research in the long-run so that we continue to move to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions and reverse global warming, as the situation gets worse and worse.
- Ensure that workers currently working in the fossil fuel industries be accepted first in new job training programs for renewable energy industries and the building renovation industry. In addition, we will work with universities, community colleges, and trade schools to develop education programs to help bring in people for the new industries and jobs.
When it comes to transportation, the Williamson Administration will:
- Phase out the sales of new fossil-fuel vehicles by 2035. By 2050 we will remove fossil fuel burning vehicles from our roads. We may consider an exception for historical vehicles, schools and museums for educational purposes.
- Accelerate the production of Electric Vehicles, invest in charging infrastructure, and continue efforts to maximize fuel efficiency until we can move away from internal combustion engines. All parking spaces on either private or public land would have to have access to electric charging stations by 2035.
- Set standards to that heavy-duty trucks either use electricity or more sustainable bio-fuels by 2035. All diesel vehicles will be retired by 2050.
- Require electrification of all railways by 2030, both passenger and freight.
- Deploy federal transportation funds to fully empower our cities’ public mass transit systems and walkable and bikeable communities.
- Require all new airplanes to use either hydrogen or bio-fuels by 2035.
When it comes to an economics of recarbonizing the Earth, the Williamson Administration will:
- Put a price on carbon to send a sustained market signal and pay for the external damage done by these fuels.
- Explore the concept of carbon fees being mandatory (not market-based), because many progressives and environmentalists have successfully argued that doing this will help achieve further reductions in emissions AND protect lower income and people of color who have the least protection against climate impacts.
- Explore every means of developing our economy so that it encourages the sequestering of excess carbon currently in the atmosphere, and bringing that carbon back down into the earth.
- Employ every resource to restore our forests and oceans and promote sustainable agricultural and ranching practices.
When it comes to climate justice and preparation, the Williamson Administration will:
- Find ways to enhance our resilience to the current effects of extreme weather and hotter temperatures. Those with lower income, people of color, indigenous communities, and other vulnerable populations must be prioritized.
- Integrate climate preparedness into the nation’s emergency preparedness, and into our health plans, infrastructure plans, and homeland security plans.
- Enact policies to create high-quality, high-wage jobs, protect the rights of workers to unionize, and ensure strong labor standards and working conditions. We will work with union leaders, economic justice advocates, and universities to implement best practices from the US and abroad.
- Ensure that the Green New Deal mobilization creates high-quality union jobs that pay prevailing wages, hires local workers, offers training and advancement opportunities, and guarantees wage and benefit parity for workers affected by the transition.
- Strengthen and enforce labor, workplace health and safety, anti-discrimination, and wage and hour standards for workers.
When it comes to national security, the Williamson Administration will:
- End our reliance on oil, because it perpetuates our dependence on energy supplies from other countries, particularly in the Middle East.
- Cease being drawn into military misadventures to defend access to oil (and the profits it yields for big oil companies), under the pretense of, “defending our freedoms.”
- Save much of the oil we use through improved efficiency, get the other half from renewable energy sources, and consequently save, potentially, trillions of dollars from being wasted on foreign wars.
In all these and more areas, a Williamson administration will make climate change and global warming an urgent and top priority.
In order for the needed changes to occur, a massive mobilization of the American people, our economy and our industry, will be necessary. We need a great American effort not unlike the massive mobilization necessary to fight WW2 and bring the US out of the Great Depression. Our task is to build a Green New Century. Ultimately we need this for all the world, and the United States should lead the way.
Americans abroad hear from our neighbors and colleagues that the standing of the U.S. in world affairs has plummeted over the past three years. What would you do to re-establish trust and re-build the confidence of the U.S. government in global institutions and with other countries?
The President must set the tone for regaining the trust of the world and rebuilding our reputation in the world. As President, I would re-commit to the United Nations and its related NGO’s to make certain that we are doing our fair share globally. In the diplomatic arena and throughout my administration, I will substitute the rhetoric of hate with one of respect for others.
The United States must work hard to regain our moral authority. To that end, as President I will strengthen and reinvest in the State Department and create a Cabinet level United States Department of Peace to work internationally on global peacebuilding efforts and domestically on non violence issues. The outline of my Department of Peace Plan is here.
For more information on how I would deal with other countries and other regions, see my Foreign Policy plan here.
In a 2019 survey of Americans living abroad, Democrats Abroad found that 2.2% cited their reason for living abroad as “affordable healthcare.” These numbers include ‘healthcare refugees’ who cannot afford to return to live in the U.S. due to the high cost of healthcare and the threat of bankruptcy due to illness. Under your healthcare plan, will Americans currently abroad at all income levels and states of health be able to return to live in the U.S. and receive quality, affordable, accessible healthcare for their families at reasonable cost without threat of bankruptcy?
YES I believe that healthcare is a human right which all Americans, regardless of where they live, should have equal access to use.
Executive orders such as the one exploiting the term "public charge" demonstrate that our current immigration system was founded in a shameful era of discrimination and bigotry, and that family members of Americans abroad are allowed entry to the U.S. due to a patchwork of fragile bandaids and weakly defended interpretations. Would you restore the principle of family reunification?
YES How would your plan for immigration improve the situation for spouses, partners, and relatives of Americans living abroad who wish to return with our families?
Keeping families together and allowing for families to reunite should be paramount for returning families. To do otherwise goes against our legacy as a nation of immigrants. We are a nation of immigrants, and we will always be a nation of immigrants. We need to re-examine our immigration policies to provide care and respect for those who come here. America, at its best, is a welcoming community, and we need to live up to our image, instead of tarnishing it.
More generally, on Immigration issues, The Williamson Administration will:
- Provide a timely, ethical, transparent and straightforward path to citizenship for all law-abiding, productive immigrants living in the United States.
- Overturn the three- and ten-year re-entry bars. Many people who would otherwise qualify for green card status due to a relationship with a citizen or permanent resident are in a heart-wrenching scenario if they leave to apply for a green card in their native country (as is currently required). They are subsequently not allowed to re-enter the United States for three or ten years, even if they are married to a U.S. citizen. They can be separated from their families - for abiding by our laws! This whole scenario traps people in undocumented status. I will work to overturn this unnecessary hardship.
- Stop punishing children brought into the United States by their parents for now being here. I fully support DACA. Our dreamers represent the best about our future. I would also work to expand protections and naturalization to all undocumented immigrants who were brought here as children, regardless of their current age. They came here through no fault of their own, and many are, in fact, unaware that they are undocumented.
- Reduce the record number of detainees currently under extended DHS and ICE control. We will work to close private detention centers and family detention centers. There are far more humane options that have been proven to work.
- Increase border security intelligently through electronic surveillance and more patrol agents, rather than an ineffective and expensive wall.
- End Family Separation. The Federal government has a moral responsibility to keep families together. For those that have been torn apart by the current administration, we must take immediate action to reunite children with their families.
- Speed-Up Processing. For the benefit of the U.S. and asylum seekers alike, we must speed-up the process so our government can determine the validity of an asylum claim. It is necessary to fund and authorize a vast increase in immigration judges to adjudicate the backlog of asylum seekers and other related cases. As an example, asylum seekers at the southern border should not be forced to stay across the border before being processed.
- Expand LGBTQ Protection. LGBTQ immigrants and asylum seekers who experience discrimination here, as well as in their countries of origin, should receive additional protections. Government employees should be trained to be particularly sensitive to the issues they face abroad, in this nation, and during the immigration process.
- Ensure that due process and constitutional protections are available to undocumented immigrants when it comes to deportation issues.
- Make affordable health care available to all families, whether they are documented or not.
Regulatory guidance from the Treasury Department could mitigate the harms of FATCA suffered by thousands of Americans living and working abroad. Will you commit to directing the Treasury Department to study and then implement, as a high priority, new guidance that will provide relief to ordinary Americans living abroad who are demonstrably not evading taxes?
YES Taxation needs to be fair. Tax rates should be based on income. Americans should not be penalized because the are living and working abroad.
Most Americans living abroad think that the time has come for Residency-Based Taxation, the principle guiding all other countries' tax systems and a fix for numerous unjust burdens on Americans living and working abroad. There are bi-partisan, revenue-neutral proposals to implement RBT that include robust provisions to protect the law from abuse by tax evaders. All we need is a moment of leadership to get this done. Will you be that leader?
While federal legislation provides some protection for overseas voters, this legislation does not go far enough to counter the challenges that states, and recently the Trump administration, have set up to limit voting from abroad. 67% of abroad ballots are returned by mail, largely due to state requirements, yet postal delivery of ballots is fraught with problems, and during each election thousands of ballots do not arrive on time to be counted. To make matters worse, in less than a month the U.S. may withdraw from the Universal Postal Union, likely leading to serious delays and postal mail price increases. How will you help protect the rights of Americans abroad to vote while helping states ensure that ballots are returned safely?
First, I would make sure that the United States stays in, or re-enters, the Universal Postal Union. I would work with the postal service to prioritize ballot mailing and work with the state election authorities to make certain that they are doing everything in their power to identify, count and safeguard returning ballots. I will explore modernizing voting techniques and begin investigating more secure electronic voting systems that would allow direct voting from abroad.