It’s time to declare a national climate emergency
This month, President Biden will convene 40 world leaders to discuss the urgency of climate action and strengthen global cooperation on key climate goals. But before the president takes the global stage at the Leaders Summit on Climate, there’s something he should do at home: declare a national climate emergency here in the United States.
In recent years, we have seen the effects of the climate crisis, both in our own backyard and around the world. From wildfires raging across Oregon and the West, to hurricanes wreaking havoc in the southeast, and increasing average temperatures everywhere in between, the impacts have been devastating.
The severity of the crisis necessitates bold action. And the scientists and experts have been clear: If we do not adequately address this climate emergency now, the impacts will only become more catastrophic.
Despite the other challenges facing our country, the Biden administration has done an admirable job of prioritizing climate action in the first months of his administration. After years of practiced ignorance from former President Trump and congressional Republicans, however, an even larger mobilization is needed.
That’s why I’ve taken steps — alongside Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) — to mandate a national climate emergency. By directing the president of the United States to declare a national climate emergency, our National Climate Emergency Act will ensure every resource is at the country’s disposal to halt, reverse, mitigate and prepare for the consequences of this climate crisis.
This could not be more important, as the climate crisis is connected to, and exacerbates, almost every other crisis we are currently dealing with. Of course, we cannot ignore that the current and lasting effects of climate change are disproportionately impacting Black, Indigenous and other communities of color.
Fighting the climate crisis means fighting racial injustices. Fighting the climate crisis means fighting public health injustices. And fighting the climate crisis means combatting economic injustices.
Declaring a national climate emergency is more than just a symbol of our commitment to this fight. It will literally unlock the tools needed to get the job done. This includes the ability to invest in large-scale mitigation and resiliency projects, such as public infrastructure to expand access to clean and affordable energy, and the opportunity to develop and transform the industrial base of the U.S. while creating high-skilled family-wage jobs.
As we look ahead to this month’s summit, I’m thrilled that the new administration wants the United States to once again lead the global fight against climate change. But right now, other countries are taking greater steps than we are.
In fact, 38 individual countries have already declared a climate emergency. Many of the leaders invited to Biden’s upcoming climate summit represent those countries, including President Emmanuel Macron of France, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, and President Moon Jae-in of the Republic of Korea.
If we are going to encourage stronger climate action across the globe, it’s important that we also take every possible step to combat the climate crisis here at home. That includes a national climate emergency declaration.
After four years of Trump’s environmental recklessness, it’s a relief to see Biden’s real commitment to a whole-of-government response to the climate crisis. His American Jobs Plan centers climate action in our infrastructure conversation. It also includes some of my environmental legislative priorities, such as the elimination of tax preferences for fossil fuels that will help spur investments in clean energy technologies and a reinstatement of the Superfund tax that will finally shift the cleanup responsibility at toxic and hazardous waste sites back to polluters.
Our National Climate Emergency Act, which mandates the declaration of a climate emergency, is in line with all of this. Not only will it lay the necessary framework for countless other actions we will take, but it will put us in line with the very allies we’re hoping to motivate and encourage in the fight against the climate crisis.
Before Biden takes the global stage, let’s take a stand at home. The time is now to declare a national climate emergency.
Blumenauer, a Democrat, represents Oregon’s 3rd District in the U.S. House of Representatives. He is the author and primary sponsor of the National Climate Emergency Act.
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