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Gillibrand Challenges China to ‘Clean-Energy Space Race’

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand speaks at the We the People Summit in Washington, D.C., April 1, 2019. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) employed the unifying rhetoric of the Cold War-era Space Race in a climate-change proposal released Thursday, suggesting that the U.S. must engage in a great-power competition with China to ensure American dominance in the clean-energy sector.

“When President John F. Kennedy started the space race, he didn’t know if he could get to the moon within ten years. But he did know that by challenging Russia, he would galvanize all Americans to support the mission to get to the moon first. Why not challenge China to a clean energy competition for this generation?” Gillibrand wrote in a Medium post published Thursday.

“So let’s commit to a 21st-century clean energy ‘space race,’ where we decarbonize our economies through innovation and investment at a scale that rises to meet the global challenge we face,” she continued. “I’ll put the entrepreneurs and innovators of America up against anybody, anywhere, anytime — because I know we’ll win.”

A nation of 1.4 billion people, China accounts for half of the world’s coal use each year and more than one quarter of the world’s climate pollution, according to the Environmental Defense Fund.

The climate-change policy outlined by Gillibrand calls for $10 trillion in combined government and private spending over the next ten years to implement many of the goals outlined in the recently introduced Green New Deal resolution. Like that proposal, it seeks to transition the entire U.S. economy to “100% clean, renewable, and zero-carbon electricity in a decade” with the eventual goal of reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The plan would also price carbon at $52 per metric ton in order to penalize companies that prove hesitant to embrace green technology, and would provide $100 billion in federal aid to help rural communities transition to sustainable energy.

“The revenue generated from this carbon tax, estimated at more than $200 billion annually, will then go directly back into our country’s transition to renewable energy,” the 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful wrote. She also vowed to recommit the U.S. to the Paris Climate Agreement as one of her first acts in office.

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