Meeting the Moment on Federal Climate Action

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Congress must pass once-in-a-generation investments in clean energy and infrastructure necessary to tackle the climate crisis.

By: Brian Gill, IEC Federal Policy Director

What’s Happening Now?
Congress is currently in the midst of negotiating about $4 trillion in new spending between a bipartisan infrastructure bill and a $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package. Front and center in these negotiations are levels of investment to address the climate crisis, environmental justice and clean energy jobs.

President Biden has set a goal of cutting emissions 50% by 2030 (below 2005 levels). In order to achieve this, Congress will need to pass once-in-a-generation investments in clean energy and infrastructure necessary to tackle the climate crisis and advance environmental justice in communities across the country.

While the idea of major investments in sustainability may seem ambitious, putting resources into clean energy is a no-brainer to us. Clean energy is among the fastest-growing industries in the United States and provides a massive opportunity for high-quality, union jobs that can strengthen the middle class. Moreover, as a growing leader in electric vehicle manufacturing, Illinois’ economy has a lot at stake in this fight and would benefit greatly from this legislation including tax incentives for clean vehicles and clean electricity. From creating good-paying jobs to laying the foundation for a clean energy economy, the United States, and Illinois, need ambitious clean energy tax incentives.

Also being negotiated as part of infrastructure legislation is how much money should go towards removing lead service lines that currently deliver contaminated drinking water to homes across the nation. Illinois has more of this toxic infrastructure than any other state in the country. Recently, all 13 House Democrats from Illinois signed a letter calling for sufficient funding in any major infrastructure package to remove all of these lead lines. Congresswoman Schakowsky led this effort, and you can read her statement and the full letter here.

Where Things Stand Now
As we mentioned earlier, it is expected that infrastructure and economic recovery legislation will move on two tracks. First, the bipartisan infrastructure plan, which includes $550 billion in new spending. While the bipartisan agreement contains critical investments in our nation’s infrastructure, it is not a climate bill and thus will not make the critical investments needed to combat the climate crisis and protect environmental justice communities alone. Second, Senate Budget Committee Democrats have reached a deal on a $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package. 

Passing both bills is absolutely critical. If a stripped-down reconciliation bill makes it through, and nothing else passes, it means losing our best shot at tackling the climate crisis. It means losing on clean energy. It means losing on environmental justice.

Why it Matters
This deal is vitally important given the enormity of the climate crisis, environmental injustice and economic inequality. It is imperative that Congress moves forward with the two-track approach and that these investments cut our emissions by at least 50% by 2030 and put our nation fully on the path to 100% clean energy powering our grid, new cars and buses and buildings by 2035.

With the right investments, we can put people to work and build cleaner, healthier, more economically stable communities we all deserve. Transformative investments could allow for the United States to

  • Replace all lead pipes and deliver clean water to every community
  • Build hundreds of thousands of electric vehicle charging stations along our highways
  • Manufacture and install millions of solar panels and thousands of wind turbines
  • Create a Civilian Climate Corps to put a new generation of climate, conservation, and resilience workers to work 
  • Manufacture 40-50 million electric vehicles in the USA by 2030
  • Upgrade millions of buildings to be energy efficient

People are Demanding Bold Action
It just so happens that these investments are also very popular. An overwhelming, bipartisan majority of Americans are concerned about the impacts of climate change on their communities and support infrastructure investments that tackle the climate crisis.

Two-thirds of voters think it is important that investments to create clean energy jobs are included as lawmakers in Congress negotiate. 67% agree the government should make investments to create clean energy jobs, even if that means raising taxes on large corporations and wealthy Americans. 70% agree the U.S. should take ambitious actions to address climate change so other countries will follow our lead.

Inaction on climate is not an option. We are out of time. We have a responsibility to our children and grandchildren to pass on a planet that is safe, cleaner and healthier.

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