Biden proposal…before he went to Republicans

One of the best summaries of what’s in the Biden proposal comes from David Roberts in his Volts newsletter: he highlights the “coolest” features, from electrifying the postal-service delivery fleet (and a fifth of the nation’s school buses) to a national climate lab situated at a historically Black college and a major transmission grid for renewables that may follow existing rail rights of way.

The energy systems engineer Jesse Jenkins, on Twitter, points out that the bill should spur the electric-car industry—the subsidy for buyers would make the cost difference with gasoline cars “disappear.” Julian Brave NoiseCat salutes provisions of the plan that would send forty per cent of the investments to disadvantaged communities, which is a sharp turn from the way big federal spending bills have worked for most of American history.

The criticism, at least from environmentalists, was of the “Yes and” variety. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said that she thought we should be spending not two trillion dollars but ten trillion. Varshini Prakash, the executive director of the Sunrise Movement, which has done as much as any organization to get us to this moment, pointed out that the bill incorporates much of what the Green New Deal advocates, including ten billion for a Civilian Climate Corps to put people to work building out the new energy infrastructure. But “we’re just orders of magnitude lower than where we need to be,” she said. “And I think that that fight over the scale and scope of what needs to happen in terms of employment and the creation of jobs, in terms of the scale of investment and the urgency, is going to be a terrain of struggle as this plan gets debated and discussed in Congress.” She’s surely right about that, and I fear there’s likely to be as much pressure to reduce the spending as to increase it.

The question of whether it’s “enough” is, of course, the right one—and the answer is no. Summer sea-ice coverage in the Arctic has declined by fifty per cent since the nineteen-eighties, and there were a record thirty named tropical storms last year, with one of them, off the New England coast, nudging up against smoke coming from the wildfires on the other side of the country, in California. We should be investing every penny we can in green projects, and even then we would still face an ongoing rise in temperature. That’s why movements need to keep pushing hard to build support for climate action.

But another test of whether this spending is sufficient will come in the next couple of months as we watch for decisions from Washington on big projects such as the Line 3 tar-sands pipeline, which stretches across Minnesota. One would hope that a two-trillion-dollar jobs program—with all kinds of promises about union contracts—would buy enough good will with organized labor for Biden to get away with killing these projects. Politicians like building things more than they like shutting things down, but dealing with the climate crisis requires doing both, and if this generous new proposal gives Biden the freedom to act aggressively, then we’d get a double return on the investment.

The Administration faces similar tensions on other fronts. John Kerry, the global climate czar, has been working Wall Street in recent weeks, trying to get the financial giants on board before a global climate summit that the Administration has called for April 22nd. The banks are happy to make proclamations about their net-zero plans for 2050, and they’re happy to pledge lots of lending into the suddenly trending renewables sector, but they’re not happy about stopping their lending to the fossil-fuel industry. Like the building trades, they’d be most thrilled about making money off both the old and the new. And, of course, that would be fine, except for physics.

There’s a lot of this ambivalence going around. (Reuters reported last week that a draft statement from the World Bank commits to “making financing decisions in line with efforts to limit global warming” but not to stopping lending for fossil-fuel projects.) That’s why, late last month, more than a hundred organizations sent Kerry a letter arguing that “no amount of new green finance commitments can credibly undo the damage that their fossil fuel financing is doing to the climate, to U.S. climate leadership, and to our chances of meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement.” (Full disclosure—the letter opens by citing an essay that I wrote for this magazine.) It would be smart of both the Administration and the banks to pay heed. If not, Robinson Meyer points out in The Atlantic, as the Administration’s commitment to dramatically cut carbon emissions by 2030 starts to become a reality, there will be a “fire sale” of fossil-fuel assets that could do real damage to the economy. It would be much better to prick this carbon-and-finance bubble now.

This is what the climate fight is going to look like for the foreseeable future: not a fight over whether we should be doing something but a tussle over how much we should do. And the cheapest parts of the fight—monetarily, if not politically—involve shutting down the dangerous things that the fossil-fuel industry does. We’re in a much better place politically than we were a few months ago, but in February we passed a scary landmark—there’s now fifty per cent more carbon dioxide in the air than there was when the Industrial Revolution began. In the end, measuring carbon in the atmosphere and the temperature rise it causes is how we’re going to actually keep score.

Grassroots, Environmental Justice Communities Call on Biden to Go Bigger, Bolder and Faster for a Climate, Care and Infrastructure Recovery Package     It Takes Roots, a multiracial, multicultural, multigenerational alliance comprised of the Climate Justice Alliance, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, Indigenous Environmental Network, and Right To The City Alliance, appreciates the beginning steps announced by the Biden Administration today as he unveiled details of an infrastructure package to help the country recover- and we implore him to go further, faster. 
Our networks represent over 200 organizations and affiliates in over 50 states, provinces, territories and Indigenous lands; led by women, gender non-conforming people, people of color, and Black and Indigenous Peoples. We intimately understand the impacts of the interlocking white supremacist economic, democratic and climate crises we are facing today and it calls for bold action. Now is the time to chart a historic course forward that will ensure good jobs, care for our children, a future free from pollution, greenhouse gases and environmental devastation, and investment in historically disenfranchised communities who have long been ravaged by economic injustice, inequitable impediments to Tribal sovereignty, racism and white supremacist violence. Any recovery package must center and support those communities most devastated by the economic, climate and COVID crises. The current proposed investment in affordable housing will not be enough to address the lack of housing options for low-income and tribal communities and the current eviction crisis. We encourage a doubling of investment in order to increase the affordable housing stock available while simultaneously ensuring that undocumented peoples, large families, formerly incarcerated individuals, low-income communities of color, tribes, rural communities, disabled peoples, and LGBTQ individuals have fair and greater access. We must also uplift a care economy by investing in public and tribal institutions and care infrastructure for children, people with disabilities, and the elderly, settings where predominantly women of color and underpaid caregivers and essential workers are employed. Investments must not only go to expanding public transportation but to local renewable, community and tribal controlled energy systems, safe and clean water and wastewater sanitation systems and more in frontline and tribal communities at a rate and scale never before seen. We applaud President Biden’s announcement to eliminate billions in fossil fuel subsidies and although not mentioned today, we reiterate that any support for nuclear, natural gas, and fracking as climate friendly is unacceptable. These measures would only continue to harm frontline communities while doing nothing to address emissions reduction or mitigating the effects of climate change at the levels and action needed. They would tie us to long term financial commitments to dirty energy infrastructure and unacceptable “clean” energy standards that we can’t allow. We call for binding climate targets to ensure 100% clean energy generated by 2035. Biden’s plan, however, invests in research and development in technologies that may cause harm to frontline communities and the planet. Investments must not expand extraction, processing or use of fossil fuels or uranium at any level of the supply chain; hydropower that displaces communities; biofuels and bioproducts; or the use of carbon markets, emission offsets or carbon capture and other unproven geoengineering technologies. The time to be bold and courageous is now. A truly comprehensive recovery package is what’s in order, one that addresses physical infrastructure alongside human infrastructure through the  expansion of social programs to redress historic inequality, and shifting the economy away from dirty fossil fuels without the use of market based false solutions. The THRIVE Act, which calls for an investment in communities of $10 trillion over 10 years, rather than Biden’s plan of $2 trillion over 8 years, is a good place to start. Additionally, we call on Biden to increase investments to at least 50%, allocated directly to frontline communities, with a commitment to accountability and equity. So-called “benefits” to communities can be easily appropriated by the private sector and polluting industries. The Build Back Better Plan must ensure financing goes directly to communities that need it the most.  Moreover, US economic recovery and investments require Tribes and Indigenous communities to be at the center of an economic recovery, respecting the Nation-to-Nation relationship of Tribal nations with the Federal government. Each federal agency must use administrative authorities to create set-aside funding for Tribes and Indigenous communities based on a formula, and Tribal consensual process, to ensure investments are made available and allocated in an equitable manner.  The next recovery plan must redraw the boundaries of the economy to bring them in line with ecological limits and common-sense science. We strongly encourage the Biden Administration to prioritize those impacted first and worst by these crises in the forthcoming recovery package. This is the promise he was elected on and what we will hold him accountable to.   Click here to view this statement on our website and share.
#ItTakesRoots centers the leadership and power of urban and rural communities on the frontlines of racial, gender, housing, environmental, energy and climate justice in the United States to advance regenerative economies and healthy communities. ITR is a multiracial, multicultural, intergenerational alliance of networks and alliances representing over 200 organizations and affiliates in over 50 states, provinces, territories and Native lands in the U.S. and Canada, and is led by women, gender nonconforming people, people of color, and Indigenous Peoples. It is an outcome of years of organizing and relationship building across the Climate Justice Alliance (CJA), Grassroots Global Justice Alliance (GGJ), Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), and Right to the City Alliance (RTTC) alongside Center for Story-based Strategy and The Ruckus Society. You are receiving this email because you are a member or supporter of one or more of our sister alliances. Unsubscribe