The Trump administration was “limping across the finish line” and the US needed strong leadership to rebuild and put the nation “on a safer trajectory”, Jeffrey Sachs, US economist, Columbia University professor, and director of the Center for Sustainable Development said at the Reuters NEXT Event on Monday.
Speaking about the president’s leadership to Ann Saphir, economics reporter for Reuters, Mr Sachs said that Trump had neglected assistance to state and local governments in the ongoing pandemic, adding Washington also needed to rejoin the World Health Organisation and Paris Agreement, among others.
A key task for the US was to return to the “mid-century goal” of net-zero emissions by 2050 as noted in US President-elect Joe Biden’s Green New Deal , namely post-COVID-19, to rebuild the economy and meet net-zero targets, he said.
The US should rebuild with nations such as the United Kingdom, who will host the 26th UN COP26 meeting in Glasgow in November, as well as the EU, Japan, South Korea, China and others committed to tackling climate change, he added.
But due to shortfalls in revenue sources, America’s green initiative should be funded with revenues from the wealthy via wealth taxation, an increase in corporate tax rates, and others to fund “urgent public priorities”, he said.
“The richest people in the United States – the top couple hundred – have had billions of dollars in new wealth in the past year during COVID. The world’s 500 richest people now have a combined net worth of about $7.7 trillion, and the markets have gone haywire. Well, those people are gonna have to contribute to supporting the common good”, he said.
The taxes would fund electric vehicles, green bonds, and green financing, he said, adding the US urgently needed to expand charging infrastructure and the power grid.
State and local governments should also implement zero-emission building codes and develop a systematic approach to tackling climate change, he said.
What to Expect From Biden’s Green New Deal
When asked by Sputnik about what to expect or add to Mr Biden’s proposed $2 trillion Green New Deal, set to enter force by 2050, Mr Sachs added that the president-elect had appointed a “first rate” administration to tackle the goal.
Biden’s selections included former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Gina McCarthy, former Secretary of State John Kerry as well as strong choices for the Departments of Transport and Energy, among others, he said.
He added that the team would be tasked with focusing on the “energy transformation” and industrial policies needed to allow the US to lead in such emerging technologies.
“This isn’t just a matter of us limping along, this is a matter of the United States leading in electric vehicles. We have Tesla [and] we can do a lot of things such as building wind turbines, smart grids, and rolling out 5G. So this is about jobs, industrial policy, and decarbonisation”, he said.
Such goals are “complicated” by many nuances that require public input from all parts of the nation, he said.
But Biden cannot implement his green policy with a “top down” approach, Sachs noted, urging to build a “shared commitment” to reaching net-zero goals, and adding that each part of the country needed to be included in the programme.
“In the industrial heartland of Upper Appalachia, the mayors of Louisville, Morgantown, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and others across the region said ‘We’re ready for this transformation. We want to build the wind turbines, [solar photovoltaics] and battery chains, but we need to be a part of this’. I think that basic engagement of mayors and governors all across the country in a national strategy is going to be absolutely crucial”, he concluded.
The Reuters NEXT event is taking place from 11 to 14 January and is one of the largest and most ambitious leadership summits globally, gathering 25,000 executives and journalists to discuss politics, tech, media freedom, and business.
The four-day summit includes speakers such as European Central Bank president Christine Lagarde, Chevron CEO Mike Wirth, Internet creator Sir Tim-Berners Lee, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, and others.
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