‘This is our generation’s moonshot,’ Energy Secretary Granholm says of fighting climate change

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Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm speaks during the daily press briefing on April 8, 2021, in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC.
Brendan Smialowski | AFP | Getty Images

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm on Friday emphasized the need for the world to come together in an effort to tackle climate change, while stressing the economic opportunity the energy transition presents.

“For too long this climate conversation has been viewed as a zero-sum game: one of trade offs — the climate, or the economy. No longer,” she said at day two of the climate summit called by President Biden.

In a speech that at points struck an optimistic tone — calling the challenge an “exciting moment” — Granholm noted that the clean energy transition market will hit at least $23 trillion by 2030.

“That means that we can all remake our economies, we can build new businesses and put millions and millions of people to work,” she said.

Ahead of the summit’s kick-off on Thursday, which was Earth Day, President Joe Biden announced a target to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions between 50% and 52% by the end of the decade.

The target is the country’s most ambitious on record. Prior goals set under the Obama administration targeted emissions reductions between 26% and 28% below 2005 levels by 2025.

The summit brought together 40 world leaders, where heads of state announced their own emissions reduction targets while committing to a greener future.

Climate was a key pillar of Biden’s campaign, and on his first day in office he rejoined the U.S. into the Paris climate accord. His recently announced $2 trillion infrastructure bill earmarks more than $600 billion in spending for climate-related initiatives, including the power grid, electric vehicles and funding for research.

“We need fearless innovation to bring down the costs of batteries, to commercialize carbon capture, to make blue and green hydrogen market ready, and perhaps most of all, we need a mindset that overcomes resistance to change. Many are stuck on the status quo,” Granholm said.

“Climate disasters worldwide tell us that the scariest thing that we can do is nothing at all,” she added, noting that the Department of Energy will be announcing new goals for various technologies in the coming weeks.

As the U.S. continues to feel the burdens of the coronavirus pandemic, Granholm emphasized the job opportunity of ramping up U.S. infrastructure around clean energy, and the need to bring production to U.S. soil. This will create a whole ecosystem of jobs — everything from project managers, to engineers, to technicians and more.

“This is our generation’s moonshot. Less than a decade after Kennedy declared our nation’s choice to go to the moon we planted an American flag on that cratered surface, and today we choose to solve the climate crisis,” she said.

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– CNBC’s Emma Newburger contributed reporting.

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