At least nine billion dollarshit the United States in 2021. Severe drought, flooding, hurricanes and a winter storm have killed more than 300 people, and last month’s Hurricane Ida caused more than $ 50 billion in damage in its wake . On Monday, President Joe Biden called the disasters a “flashing red code for our nation.”
Passing a number of climate-related measures – something Democrats want to do with a $ 3.5 trillion budget that would only require 50 Senate votes, known as reconciliation – could help remind this alarm.
“If that investment isn’t made, then I think the irreparable damage that’s been done – it’s getting to a point where we may not be able to turn back the clock,” said Daniel Blackman, chairman of the executive committee of the Sierra Club’s Georgia environmental advocacy group. chapter.
One of the most urgent elements of the budget package is to subsidize a transition away from fossil fuels, Blackman said. He said the health of people of color and underserved communities, in the South in particular, has been disproportionately affected by living near dangerous, high-risk facilities in what are known as the “fenced” communities.
Research published earlier this year showed that people of color are disproportionately prone to deadly air pollutants. The extreme heat in the United States, the, is more likely to affect Blacks and Browns than any other group. And communities of color are 40% more likely to depend on unsafe water.
Blackman said the budget’s environmental justice provisions could be as important to his community as reparations in that they would recognize the injustices generations have had to endure and help ensure fairness.
Reducing emissions by relying less on fossil fuels is how Mr. Biden’s $ 3.5 trillion plan aims to meet climate goals and create jobs. A shift to clean energy would increase demand for manufacturing products like solar panels and wind turbines. Part of the proposed budget would encourage green technology in the United States
The plan also includes a $ 150 billion “clean electricity performance program”, which would pay utility companies to source energy from renewable sources. This program is modeled on the statewide success.
A clean electricity performance program would be the “flagship” of the reconciliation bill, said Jessica Goad, deputy director of the nonprofit Conservation Colorado.
Goad underlined the interdependence of climate change, health and the economy addressed by the full package. She said wildfires and the damage they cause to air quality keep Coloradians indoors, devastating the state’s integral tourism industry.
The finance bill also contains measures that would encourage the purchase of electric vehicles and the construction of their charging stations; offer consumer discounts to homeowners who adapt their homes to inclement weather; grant tax credits to businesses that build clean energy sources; bill oil and gas producers for methane leaks; help farmers reduce their carbon footprint; and invest in climate research.
John Paul Meija, national spokesperson for the youth-led Sunrise movement, said creating a civilian climate body is a crucial part of the legislation. If passed, members would fight climate change and work to make communities more climate resilient. Sunrise estimates that a body would provide around 20,000 jobs per year. Meija said the body will capitalize on her generation’s passion for tackling the climate crisis.
Campaigners and organizers fear the proposed $ 3.5 trillion plan will be scaled back during negotiations between progressive and moderate Democrats like Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema, who has said she does not support that level of expenses.
Adopting a fully funded reconciliation plan is a “matter of life and death,” Meija said.
“The illusion that these Senators and Congressmen can represent and keep their constituents safe but not provide the proper funding to do so is abysmal and really makes them appear incredibly out of touch,” he said. “$ 3.5 trillion is the bottom line.”
The transition to clean energy is a major issue for West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, who has said his state will be left behind if coal production is curtailed.
West Virginia Land Trust executive director Brent Bailey said Manchin’s reluctance matches fear of the West Virginians.
“The systemic exclusion of rural populations from the benefits of federal programs has already left behind places like West Virginia and areas like the Appalachians,” said Bailey, who spoke with Manchin and his office of the need. to fight against climate change.
Brandon Dennison, CEO of Coalfield Development, a West Virginia-based nonprofit that recycles the unemployed into green jobs, agreed Manchin was acting in good faith but now is the time to act for the climate.
“The writing has been on the wall and we keep kicking the road. It sounds like the conservative thing to do,” he said, adding that West Virginia had been particularly ravaged by flooding.
“We are living through these very costly crises,” he said. “So shouldn’t we be setting aside funds to anticipate this?”