This week, after months of negotiation, we learned that Senate Democrats failed to reach consensus on including clean energy and tax provisions in the reconciliation bill. While there is a slight glimmer of hope, the window of opportunity for Congress to reach a deal on a climate bill this year has largely closed.
The need for action remains, regardless of Congress’ failure to make progress.
This missed opportunity is a significant setback. The climate investments considered over the past year would have represented the most significant congressional response to climate change in U.S. history. They would incentivize more solar and wind energy projects, boost U.S. clean energy manufacturing, and expand opportunities for Americans to access electric vehicles. These investments also make economic sense; they will create jobs and fight—not fuel—the inflation currently gripping the economy.
But the need for action remains, regardless of Congress’ failure to make progress. Today we are seeing the amplified impact of drought in the western U.S., more extensive and severe wildfires, and extreme heat waves in the United States and around the world. These destructive forces serve as a reminder to politicians that it is time to act swiftly.
Further, the Russian invasion of Ukraine is another reminder that there is no “energy security” to be found in oil and gas markets dominated by autocratic petrostates. Changes in the Consumer Price Index, a measure of inflation, show that oil and gas have been the greatest contributor to inflation over the past year. Transitioning to renewable energy sources is a critical strategy, both for shoring up national security and easing the burden on consumers’ wallets.
We don’t agree, however, that this was the last chance for the United States to respond to climate change.
While the news from Capitol Hill is disappointing, we cannot afford to despair. There are other avenues to advance climate action. The Biden administration, for instance, can declare a climate emergency under the National Emergency Act and provide funding to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to address the impact of climate change around the country.
State level climate policies can also make a difference—more than twenty states have greenhouse gas emissions targets. Ultimately though, federal climate policy is still the most impactful response to climate change. And while this era is marked by extreme partisanship, we still believe that climate policy with support from both political parties is critical to an effective long-term U.S. response to climate change.
It is tremendously disappointing to see yet another opportunity to pass comprehensive climate legislation come to nothing. We don’t agree, however, that this was the last chance for the United States to respond to climate change. In the words of Yogi Berra, “’It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.’” During this Congress and the next, FCNL will continue to seek opportunities to advance climate policies that support clean energy, expand environmental justice, and protect our environment.