Advocates say bigger deal needed to meet climate crisis
Some climate change advocates are expressing disappointment with the Senate Democrats’ $3.5 trillion budget resolution despite its provisions tackling global warming, arguing it doesn’t do enough to fight a growing problem.
While the advocates acknowledge the bill is a huge step forward compared to what previously has been considered by the government, they say it misses a one-in-a-generation opportunity to do even more about the climate crisis.
The progressive Sunrise Movement had pushed for a $10 trillion deal, while Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) had originally proposed $6 trillion — though that spending wouldn’t be solely on climate-related measures.
“We’re holding two truths: On the one hand this could be a historic investment, but on the other hand, this is the first time in many years that Democrats have had control of both the White House and Congress and they’re just not meeting the moment that they could be,” said Sunrise Movement spokesperson Ellen Sciales.
The package announced by senators last week is set to include clean energy tax credits, a clean electricity standard requiring power providers to get a certain percentage of their energy from clean sources and a climate jobs program called the Civilian Climate Corps.
A number of environmentalists praised the inclusion of these provisions, but they said they were worried they would not get enough funding.
“We’re hoping for a big investment in the Civilian Climate Corps and would like to see that be fully funded, but all of them should be fully funded,” said Sciales.
Other advocates argued that more provisions should have been included to further boost renewable energy and limit the use of fossil fuels.
“Tax credits of course are helpful but there are far more transformative things that can be done to really roll out renewable energy in this country,” said Jean Su, energy justice program director at the Center for Biological Diversity.
She specifically suggested dedicating funding and mandates for community solar, storage and microgrids, as well as loan forgiveness programs for rural cooperatives to forgive coal debt and fund a transition to renewable energy.
Su also raised concerns that the clean electricity standard could incorporate some fossil fuels if a type of still-developing technology called carbon capture is used to prevent emissions from going into the atmosphere.
“There are far more economical and safe technologies that already exist,” she said. “We have proven technologies like wind and solar that continue to drop every single day in terms of how affordable they are.”
“There’s no reason to give a lifeline to the fossil fuel industry when it actually needs to be phasing out,” she added.
Some of those who were disappointed acknowledged that even though Democrats have control of both chambers, the political reality is that climate advocates can’t get everything they want.
The only way the budget resolution and a subsequent reconciliation package will get through the Senate is if every Democratic senator backs it. That means centrist Democrats, including Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Jon Tester of Montana, will have a big say on the final package.
“I will say we were hoping for more, but we’re dealing with the Senate,” Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said in a statement last week.
He did praise the package though, saying he’s “happy to see an emphasis on environmental protection.”
Manchin has already expressed some concerns about the planned resolution.
“I know they have the climate portion in here, and I’m concerned about that,” Manchin told CNN last week.
“Because if they’re eliminating fossils, and I’m finding out there’s a lot of language in places they’re eliminating fossils, which is very, very disturbing, because if you’re sticking your head in the sand, and saying that fossil [fuel] has to be eliminated in America, and they want to get rid of it, and thinking that’s going to clean up the global climate, it won’t clean it up all. If anything, it would be worse,” he said.
The negotiations are playing out amid the backdrop of catastrophic weather events, including a deadly heatwave in the Pacific Northwest, raging western wildfires and major flooding in Europe.
“There’s no doubt that people are actually living through the climate emergency and the way to deal with it is through technologies that we already know exist,” Su said, specifically referring to wind and solar energy.
“We can’t afford to let Congress and Democrats at all drag their feet on this,” she said.
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