January 14, 2021

New Blog Post: Senator Warren: Here's How the Biden Administration Can Leverage U.S. Purchasing Power to Take on Climate Change

Blog Post with Data for Progress

Washington, DC - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) today contributed a blog post with Data for Progress (dataforprogress.org) on the urgent need to combat the climate crisis and how the incoming Biden administration may use existing procurement authority to enact strong emission standards and drive towards a more sustainable federal government. 

Read the full post here. Key sections below.

Here's How the Biden Administration Can Leverage U.S. Purchasing Power to Take on Climate Change

The climate crisis threatens our nation's health, economy, and security. Its effects are not far off into the future or purely theoretical. The crisis is here, happening in front of our eyes and hurting low-income communities and communities of color the most. It is happening because of choices too often dictated by the fossil fuel industry and their allies. But just as our society's choices have led to the crisis, our choices moving forward can provide solutions.


One of the most critical solutions to tackling this crisis will be leveraging the federal government's enormous purchasing power. Every year, the federal government spends hundreds of billions of dollars on goods and services, and President-elect Biden has committed to using this procurement authority to reduce emissions and drive towards a more sustainable federal government. While Congress must work quickly to invest in more clean energy research and deployment and enact strong emissions standards, government purchasing is a powerful tool that President-elect Biden can use under existing authority.


Not only is President-elect Biden's commitment great policy, it is also widely popular. In a poll conducted last month, Data for Progress found that 69% of voters support the Biden administration using government contracts to prioritize buying sustainable and American-made products like electric vehicles and green building materials. Notably, a green procurement policy was supported by a majority of both Republican and Democratic voters.


The time is now to use every possible tool in the toolkit to combat the climate crisis. The 2018 National Climate Assessment, a report issued by 13 federal agencies, found that the climate crisis could slash about a tenth of our economy by the end of the century, which would more than double the economic losses caused by the Great Recession a decade ago. The analysis also found that climate change will cause dramatic increases in heat-related deaths, costs associated with sea level rise, and damage to our infrastructure. And a separate 2018 report commissioned by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change showed that within two decades, we will see even more harsh food shortages and wildfires.

These roaring alarm bells signal that the federal government must take swift, decisive action to mitigate this existential crisis. Instead, the Trump administration has spent the last four years stuffing their ears and marching in the wrong direction. Rather than trying to marshal the resources of the federal government to tackle these existential threats, the outgoing Trump administration has worked steadfastly to exacerbate them, spending even the last weeks of President Trump's time in office pushing oil and gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and even weakening the federal government's ability to conduct climate research.


Green procurement policies will help create clean energy jobs and ensure these are good jobs with strong wages, benefits, and worker protections right here at home. In addition to boosting American manufacturing, the Biden administration can ensure that government contracts require that the products the federal government buys are manufactured in the United States and that companies receiving these contracts uplift and empower their workers.

The federal government has incredible purchasing power, and the incoming Biden administration can use it to buy goods and services made sustainably in the United States and drive more investments into lower-emission production and management. By making sure that federal purchasing dollars go to greener buildings and materials, lower- and zero-emission vehicles, and other more sustainable purchases, President-elect Biden and his administration can provide a needed boost in the transition to a clean energy economy and incentivize the private sector to move in a more sustainable direction - all with actions under the administration's existing authorities and budget. And such actions would not only demonstrate a clear federal commitment to acting on climate change, but the benefits would likely filter throughout the rest of the domestic and international economy.

The climate crisis is here, and the Biden administration must use every tool in the toolbox to address the problem. Making sure that the federal government uses its significant purchasing power to drive investments into a clean energy innovation and deployment is a bold and highly popular step that the Biden administration can act on quickly after taking office.