Wind turbines near Palm Springs, California.Photo: David McNew (Getty Images)
Democrats in Congress are calling on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to support a coronavirus relief package that’ll bring the U.S. closer to a clean energy economy. There’s never been a better time than now to make the leap.
In a letter sent on Wednesday, 60 Congress members highlighted the urgent need to address the dual crises the world faces: the coronavirus and climate change. What better way to do so than at the same time? The timing of this is fitting: House Democrats unveiled their 500-page climate plan just a few days ago. It’s time to walk that talk, huh?
The letter was written in partnership with energy and policy experts who put out a similar letter back in March. Addressing the economic recession the pandemic caused doesn’t need to involve emitting more greenhouse gases. These experts—and now members of Congress—argue that investing in public health in both the short- and long-term requires taking action on the climate crisis.
“This letter symbolizes what the climate justice movement has known for some time: that our response to the crises of climate change, state violence, and covid-19 has to be about building a new world, not trying to piece the old one back together,” Billy Fleming, a research coordinator at the University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design who helped craft this letter, told Earther in an email. “The members of Congress who’ve led this process did more than listen to these demands; they centered movement voices in their call for a Green Stimulus that could put us on a short path to a more just, sustainable world.”
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Congress members are demanding a stimulus package that invests in clean energy, energy efficiency, sustainable infrastructure, and environmental restoration. Already, we’re seeing China’s air quality deteriorating likely due to coal power plants coming back online as economic activity ramps up. Research has shown that the decisions world leaders make during this economic crisis will have decades-long consequences. They can choose to make things better—or make them worse.
The letter’s signatories—which includes Reps. Nanette Diaz Barragán, Chellie Pingree, and Jared Huffman—note the “incredible opportunity” at hand to transform the economy to one that is less reliant on polluting fossil fuels and more reliant on renewable energy like solar and wind. Not only would leaving behind dirty energy be good for the environment, it would directly address the poor air quality that exacerbates the impacts of covid-19.
Ultimately, though, what’s at question here is economic development. These Democrats want to see an economic recovery package that creates jobs retrofitting homes, local food economies, and public transit maintenance (I’m sure cities like New York would appreciate that). The letter calls on investment in communities of color through toxic site cleanups and infrastructure updates, such as bringing proper wastewater systems to Native American communities.
The letter goes on to note this is a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” to put Americans back to work and prepare communities for the 21st century. “We have to get this right,” the letter notes. “There are no do-overs.”
Unfortunately, the current president seems to give no fucks about the climate crisis or helping the people set to suffer the most from it, and the Republican-controlled Senate has seen negotiations for a new stimulus stall. The first stimulus also didn’t do nearly enough to help the clean energy industry. But at least some members of Congress want to get it right this time around.