Washington Weekly: May 26, 2021
The Past Week in D.C.
President Biden signed an executive order on climate financial risk last Thursday directing agencies to mitigate financial risk from climate change to homeowners, businesses, and more.
Last Thursday, Representatives Brad Schneider (IL), Julia Brownley (CA), and Michigan’s own Dan Kildee introduced the Sustainable Skies Act, which would create a tax credit for sustainable aviation fuel.
A large group of Midwestern EPA workers of color are urging EPA Administrator Michael Regan to appoint Micah Ragland to fill the open Region 5 administrator position — one of the EPA’s most important offices, based out of Chicago. Ragland, a former Obama Administration official and Flint, Michigan native, would become the first Black Region-5 administrator.
This week marks the end of National Mental Health Awareness Month, an effort by the Biden administration to bring attention to this often-overlooked problem in our country. With more than half of Americans reportedly concerned about the impact of climate change on their mental health (according to a poll from the American Psychiatric Association), we will continue to use this space to draw attention to this topic from time-to-time. A report released this past week by the NDRC and the Medical Society Consortium on Climate & Health and Wisconsin Health Professionals for Climate Action outlines how climate change is costing the U.S. hundreds of billions of dollars per year in mental and physical health costs.
Michigan LCV Analysis: What does this mean for Michigan?
Monday is Memorial Day in the U.S., when we pay tribute to the brave men and women who have died in uniform, and celebrate the unofficial kickoff to summer. It is also the self-imposed deadline by the Biden Administration for serious bipartisan progress on his American Jobs Plan. With just 5 days to go until this informal deadline, the two sides remain far apart, with few signs of hope for progress.
As a recap, President Biden released a wide-ranging $2 trillion infrastructure plan in late March that included many climate-related measures. A few weeks later, Republicans released a $568 billion significantly pared down counter proposal. Since then, President Biden has remained committed to the idea of reaching a bipartisan solution, even as the two sides continue to disagree over fundamental aspects of the bill — including the basic question of what “infrastructure” even means (hint: the Republicans definition is narrow and does not include Biden administration climate measures).
On Friday, the President sent Republicans a counteroffer that cuts $500 billion from his original plan, setting in motion responses from both sides of the political spectrum. Republicans quickly rejected the offer, while liberal Democrats renewed calls to abandon attempts at bipartisan passage and instead proceed though the Senate budget reconciliation process, which requires a straight majority vote, bypassing the filibuster.
Those in favor of reconciliation — including progressives, grassroots climate activists, and others — argue that Biden has a narrow window to get his once-in-a-generation plans passed, especially on green energy. In the end, though, this path may not be an option, as it remains unclear whether all 50 Senate Democrats needed for a reconciliation vote would support a bill without bipartisan compromise.
How the negotiations proceed, and what will ultimately be included in a potential bill, will have a significant impact on Michigan and the future of our planet. Climate change represents a very real and imminent threat to all of us, especially low-income communities, and to our natural resources, including the Great Lakes . The cost of inaction in this moment will be felt for generations. Ensuring that climate provisions are included in the final bill is vital to Michigan’s, and the country’s, ability to truly “build back better” by creating good paying union jobs and protecting our environment. As we stand, the Senate may remain in limbo, but for Michigan, the choice is clear.
A Deeper Dive
In last week’s newsletter, we referenced a newly-released report by the International Energy Agency outlining what it would realistically take for the world to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and avoid the irreversible impacts of climate change. The sobering conclusion of the report is that in order to reach that goal, essentially every nation in the world would have to agree to stop using fossil fuels almost immediately — which obviously isn’t going to happen. While we need to continue to push urgently for policies and practices that will limit the impact of climate change, we also must prepare to mitigate inevitable damage, which will look different for regions across the country and the world. Use this interactive map to see what the biggest climate risks will be for different countries around the globe.