Dear President-Elect Obama,
On January 20th, 2009, you will have the opportunity in your inaugural address to speak to the whole world at a moment of grave crisis. Your words at the podium that day will set the tone for how we as a nation rise to meet that crisis, and how our allies abroad respond.
We, the undersigned, believe you must call on all Americans to prepare for a national transformation. Scientists warn that what may be the highest safe level of climate emissions -- 350 parts per million of CO2 in the air -- is already behind us. That means we must slow down (and then begin to reverse) the flow of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere in the next 20 years if we wish to avoid catastrophe.
This is a monumental challenge, but it is an even better opportunity. We also encourage you to drive home the point that the things we must do to fight climate change are also the things we need to do to generate a strong economic recovery. Livable cities, clean energy, green jobs, new technologies, improved product design, better transportation, healthy forests and thriving family farms are all foundations of a strong new economy. American ingenuity can and will start a global recovery based on those foundations.
We encourage you to call for a national crusade to turn America into a climate-neutral nation by 2030, while building the bright green economy of the future. We also encourage you to promise policies which will drive rapid progress towards that goal, such as:
• Set a national greenhouse gas cap, fortified by an aggressive auction-and-dividend approach, so that the proceeds of the auction of carbon permits are returned to the people of the U.S. to offset any rising energy expenditures.
• Launch a national smart growth campaign, ordering all federal agencies to examine their policies' effects on the built environment and funding only infrastructure projects which stop sprawl and promote compact community and transportation choices. Preferentially support location-efficient mortgages and urban development bonds. [Smart Growth America]
• Set national building standards that will require all buildings to be carbon neutral by 2030. [Architecture 2030] Promote national policies reducing water waste and expanding green infrastructure. Greatly expand weatherization and retrofit support, helping to spur a green jobs boom among urban youth. [Green For All]
• Redirect all funding and support for fossil fuels into clean energy capacity. Underwrite investment into the infrastructure of the future, promoting smart grids and pushing the deployment of plug-in electric cars. Commit to meeting former Vice President Gore's challenge to provide all electricity in the U.S. from clean sources by 2020. [We Campaign]
• Rewrite the Farm Bill, to support smaller-scale family farms, local food, organic and heritage farming and the rapid reduction of the use of fossil fuels and irrigation water, as well as the rapid improvement of food quality in schools and low-income food programs. [The Food Declaration]
• Manage public lands and waters with carbon sequestration and biodiversity as primary goals, while supporting companies and workers transitioning to sustainable forestry, fishing and ranching. Direct agencies to work with states to promote large migration corridors linking biodiversity hotspots, and to anticipate the effects of climate change.
• Restore a respected role for science in the national debate. Appoint a science adviser on day one; invest in our national research institutions, including universities, and launch a major national environmental and climate science initiative. [AAAS and alies]
• Promote a national campaign for innovation and public outreach, funding the study of bright green innovation in universities, community colleges and schools. Support prizes for new designs and technologies and create block grants for NGOs and local governments working to spread innovation in communities and small businesses.
• Vigorously apply current and future environmental enforcement. Investigate past allegations of corruption and influence-peddling. Enforce the strictest standards of transparency and accountability in government watchdog and enforcement agencies. Raise EPA to cabinet-level status.
• Take a leadership position in international climate, trade and development talks, starting by attending this year's climate talks in Poznan, Poland as president-elect  and then pushing hard for a treaty that sets developed world climate neutrality by 2030, and global climate-neutrality by 2050, as its targets.
We ask that you show the leadership needed to redefine our national challenge for the American people, and signal our good intentions to the rest of the world, and we pledge to do everything in our power to support the coming transformation.
With great hope,
Sign this letter at inauguratechange.com.
Photo credit: flickr/selena marie, Creative Commons license.
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