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The Hill OpEd: We can and will meet the climate test in the Build Back Better Act

By Representatives Veronica Escobar (D-T.X.), Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), Andy Kim (D-N.J.), AND Suzanne Bonamici (D- O.R.)

If you read the headlines right now you might think Democrats can’t agree on anything — in fact, that could not be further from the truth. The real story is that congressional Democrats, from all parts of this country and from every conference in our Caucus, are almost unanimous in our support of the reconciliation bill called the Build Back Better Act and delivering the climate investments needed to meet the goals that science and public health demand.

We all represent diverse districts and diverse constituencies. Some of us represent progressive and very liberal leaning districts; some of us represent districts that voted for us and Donald Trump. We don’t agree on every topic before Congress and occasionally find ourselves on the other side from one another on issues. That’s why it’s so important that we write this collectively, to collectively encourage our colleagues to make climate a bedrock investment in reconciliation.

The reconciliation bill is our once-in-a-generation opportunity to put millions of people to work in new good-paying union jobs in the clean energy economy while tackling climate change. But our window to act is closing. It’s time to meet the climate test with the Build Back Better Act and get this bill to President Biden’s desk — to ensure we have the provisions in place to protect our planet.

Meeting the climate test means cutting our emissions in half by 2030. Scientists and experts agree that this is the only way to equitably slow the effects of climate change. A budget that meets the climate test requires many different federal and state investments and policy tools. It is our job now as elected leaders to come to agreement and put our country on the path to reducing carbon emissions and meeting the climate test.

We must meet the climate test in the Build Back Better Act because this summer of extreme weather events was absolutely devastating for our communities. New Jersey residents could not escape their flooded homes, they lost their lives in Hurricane Ida, and communities suffered from washed-out roads and major power outages. The climate resiliency provisions, Superfund clean-up, plus the electric vehicle infrastructure and resources to remove lead from drinking water — all included in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill — are also critical in this fight. In Texas, a new study just said that after successive summers of extreme heat, El Pasoans can expect the number of 100 degree days to double in the next 15 years. In Oregon, more than 100 people died during the extreme heat wave, and drought is threatening our farmers and their agricultural products.

Across the country, extreme weather this year has already cost us tens of billions of dollars. It doesn’t have to be this way. Through the Build Back Better Act’s investments in clean energy, clean energy tax credits, and by making polluters pay, we can move the country off of fossil fuels to clean, affordable energy sources that will slow the effects of the climate crisis and put us on track to a safer, healthier future.

Passing the climate test isn’t only about averting the worst impacts of climate change and toxic pollution — the Build Back Better Act is also our country’s chance to build a thriving clean energy economy, create good paying jobs, and lower costs for working families. In fact, new data out this month found that meeting our 2030 emissions reductions target will save households $500 a year on energy costs. And from manufacturing electric vehicles and building EV charging stations to upgrading buildings and weatherizing homes, there are new, good jobs for everyone in the clean energy economy and the resources to help workers get the skills they need. 

We simply can’t wait any longer to create a safe, healthy, equitable, affordable clean energy future. And with the international climate negotiations in Glasgow fast approaching, the whole world is counting on President Biden and Congress to act now. If we’re expecting other countries to step up to the plate with strong climate commitments, the United States has to pass the climate test and lead by example.

The question of whether or not we take the climate action needed to improve people's lives and protect the future of our planet is not a “progressive” or “moderate” question — it’s a choice between doing the right thing or leaving our communities to deal with the repercussions we already see happening across the world. This piece of legislation, right now, is our chance to tackle climate change and take substantial steps to help save our planet. It’s on us to take this opportunity upon ourselves and pass the Build Back Better Act now.

Veronica Escobar represents the 16th District of Texas, Josh Gottheimer represents the 5th District of New Jersey, Andy Kim represents the 3rd District of New Jersey and Suzanne Bonamici represents Oregon’s 1st District.

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