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Congress Must Act on Climate Now

Record-setting heat waves in the Pacific Northwest and New England, catastrophic wildfires in the Southwest, and hurricane season starting early in the Gulf and South Atlantic. Mother Nature is sending us a message: humanity’s last chance to act on the climate crisis is here. Congress must pass the infrastructure bill and its companion bill to address these issues.

One of the most important opportunities for acting on the climate crisis is taking place in Congress now, as legislators consider the Biden Administration’s infrastructure proposals. Those include critical, major investments in clean energy, transportation, and environmental justice for frontline communities which have suffered disproportionately from the old infrastructure of polluting energy and transportation projects.

Concerned citizens may be excused if they have found the details of these deliberations difficult to follow. News from Congress is often confusing, and the budget appropriations process is especially opaque. For CIB readers who may be interested in a look behind the curtain, here’s a quick review of where we stand.

In brief, the Biden plan includes massive investment in clean energy (solar, wind, and transmission), clean transportation (electric vehicles and charging stations, public transit, and rail), and environmental justice (clean water infrastructure, including replacement of all lead water pipes). In the evenly divided Senate, however, partisan opposition threatens to block these plans from reaching the votes needed for passage.  

In order to navigate these stormy political waters, the infrastructure proposals have been separated into two different packages. One of these is the bipartisan framework that has support from enough Republican senators to reach the 60 votes needed to avoid the action-blocking rule known as the filibuster. That bill is expected to contain some positive elements, including investments in clean energy, clean transportation, and clean water.

However, in the estimates of climate scientists and climate advocates, the level of investments contained in that package alone will not be sufficient to reduce carbon emissions enough to ward off climate catastrophe. Much more is needed to avert climate disaster in time.

Therefore, climate advocates like us have joined in the urgent call for simultaneous passage of a second bill which includes the rest of the investments which President Biden proposed in his original American Jobs Plan. Under Senate rules, these budget-related provisions can be passed with a simple majority vote for what is called a budget reconciliation bill.

There are difficult negotiations going on now among senators and the administration for what will make it into that bill. That makes this a key moment for environmental advocates to let our members of Congress know that climate action must be included in the deal now. Click here to contact your senators and representative!

Here’s the top-line message: Congress must invest in climate, clean energy, justice, and jobs at the scale that science demands. We must take action to get millions of people back to work in good new jobs in the clean energy economy while tackling climate change and environmental racism. Clean energy is the fastest-growing industry in America, and we have to meet the scale of the crises we face with the big investments needed to build back better with justice and equity. Inaction on climate is not an option. Therefore, both the bipartisan framework and reconciliation bill are necessary, and we have no time to waste.

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