Top U.S. Experts to Presidential Candidates: Make Clean Energy Pledge

Published Dec 6, 2015

Paris (December 7, 2015)—More than 70 top U.S. clean energy and climate experts sent a letter to the U.S. presidential candidates today urging them to pledge to create an economy free from carbon pollution by mid-century, going far beyond the emissions reduction commitment President Barack Obama put on the table as the United States’ contribution toward the international climate agreement being negotiated in Paris.

The experts who signed the letter represent some of the country’s best minds in clean energy, climate science and economics, and include Nobel Laureate and former Energy Department Secretary Steven Chu and numerous authors of climate studies issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and National Academy of Sciences. Experts are still adding their names to the letter.

“Our nation’s leading clean energy and climate experts came together because it’s imperative for the next president to build on the commitments the U.S. is making in Paris,” said Peter Frumhoff, director of science and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), which organized the letter. “History will look back on the Paris climate talks as a major stepping stone, not an endpoint. To limit disruptive climate change, we will need leadership from the next U.S. president to guide our nation and the world toward a vibrant, climate-safe, clean energy economy.” Frumhoff and other signers released the letter at a press conference in Paris. 

The letter calls on the next U.S. president to: commit to meet and exceed the U.S. 2020 emission reductions goal; pursue a price on carbon and phase out fossil fuel subsidies; modernize antiquated U.S. energy and transportation systems; increase funding for research and development for promising technologies such as energy storage and smart grids; expand international partnerships for clean energy adoption; and help vulnerable communities prepare for now unavoidable impacts of climate change.

In the letter, the experts offer to brief the candidates about the scientific, technical and economic underpinnings of potential policy options.

“The costs of clean energy have fallen dramatically and the deployment of clean energy has exploded in recent years,” said Daniel Kammen, a letter signer and the founding director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley. “Yes, we need more R&D, but if we build out our infrastructure smartly and accelerate the deployment of the technologies we have today we can get the job done. We just need the will.”

The goal of transforming the energy system away from fossil fuels is grounded in science but is also “a moral imperative,” according to the letter.

“If we are a human living on this planet—and even more so if we are in a place to make decisions that affect millions of people, such as the U.S. presidential candidates intend to be—we have every reason in the world to be concerned about climate change,” said Katharine Hayhoe, a letter signer and the director of the Texas Tech University’s Climate Science Center. “The changes we’re seeing are indisputable. Increasing risks of record-breaking heat, prolonged drought, and extreme rainfall threaten our health, our economy and our well-being no matter what political party we belong to. Candidates’ political affiliations should be beside the point when we’re talking about protecting Americans and the resources they depend on.” Hayhoe, who has been talking with conservative and faith communities about climate change for the past several years, spoke at the press conference.

To read a related blog post by Frumhoff, click here.