Washington Weekly: November 10, 2021
The Past Week in D.C.
COP26 Updates. As the global climate summit winds down this week, here are a few updates from Glasgow:
- Last Thursday, the International Energy Agency announced that if all COP26 commitments made as of last Wednesday are met on time, global warming could be limited to 1.8 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century. While experts maintain that 1.5 degrees is the tipping point for even worse outcomes of climate change to take place, 1.8 degrees, if achieved, is a significant step considering that without the new pledges we are on pace for a disastrous 2.7 degrees of warming.
- Throughout the summit, protests have taken place around Glasgow calling on world leaders to do more in the face of worsening climate change. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there has been a striking demographic divide between the protestors calling for action (mostly young and female) and the diplomats making decisions (mostly old and male).
- This morning, negotiators released the first draft climate deal that would accelerate how often countries need to update their emission reduction goals, and, for the first time in an international deal, outlines the complete phasing out of fossil fuels (the Paris agreement never specifically mentioned “coal” or “fossil fuels”). Negotiations over a final deal continue before the summit ends on Friday.
- Also today, in an announcement that surprised many, the U.S. and China issued a joint declaration that the two countries would work together to slow global warming this decade.
Last Thursday, the United States and 20 other countries agreed to stop spending tax dollars to pay for international fossil fuel projects. The move will reportedly free up $18 billion a year to spend on clean energy projects.
Nearly all of the Great Lakes are setting records for warmth this fall, and all five were significantly warmer than average as of November 1. Such warming has the potential to damage fish and other aquatic life, while also increasing rain and lake-effect snow, as evidenced by the record-setting November snow in parts of northern Michigan last week. While lake temperatures fluctuate yearly to some extent, the decades-long warming trend — and record-setting years like this year — are a result of climate change.
Michigan LCV Analysis: What does this mean for Michigan?
On Friday night, the House passed the Senate-approved $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, sending it to President Biden’s desk for his signature. The bill passed on a 228-206 vote, including 6 Democratic “no” votes and 13 Republican “yes” votes.
The legislation represents a big win for one of the President’s central domestic priorities that he campaigned on. It is the single largest investment in federal infrastructure in more than a decade, and will raise federal infrastructure spending to its highest share of G.D.P. since the early 1980s. President Biden hailed it as “A blue-collar blueprint to rebuild America.”
While the bill does not include significant climate change funding, it does include the first major U.S. investment in climate resilience, better preparing communities for the inevitable impacts of climate change in the coming years and decades.
The more than $10 billion coming to Michigan once the bill officially becomes law will help to further fund Governor Whitmer’s signature policy priority — to “fix the damn roads!” (and other infrastructure improvements). The large influx of federal funding will go towards many statewide priorities, including an estimated $1.5 billion for roads and bridges, $1.3 billion for water infrastructure (including PFAS and lead removal), $1 billion to improve rail lines and buses, $110 million for electric vehicle charging stations, and $100 million for faster broadband internet. It will also allot $1 billion over five years towards the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
Politically, two Michigan congress people made headlines for their votes. Longtime Michigan Congressman Fred Upton, the only Michigan Republican to vote for the bill, was one of 13 Republican “yes” votes in the House. Since his vote, he has reportedly received over 1,000 calls to his personal phone and multiple death threats calling him, among other things, a “traitor” for his vote. On the other side of the aisle, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib was one of just 6 House Democrats to vote “no,” citing that her support hinged on passing the bill alongside the Build Back Better Act, which has not yet come to a vote. Both votes — and the responses to them from voters — once again shows Michigan’s prominent role in the national political landscape, and further underscores the deep political divide in our state, and across the country.
After years of failure by presidents from both parties to pass large-scale federal infrastructure funding, the legislation — and President Biden’s ability to get it over the finish line — should be applauded. However, from a climate change perspective it does little to move the needle as time for action continues to run out more quickly by the day. This detailed analysis from the politically-independent REPEAT Project breaks down the significant climate differences in the bills, and how the Build Back Better Act unlocks the climate potential of the infrastructure bill. The upshot: Congress must now pass the Build Back Better Act as soon as possible.
A Deeper Dive
Today is CNN’s “Call to Earth Day,” an effort to raise awareness of climate change and report more on environmental challenges facing the planet. Check out their website to learn more and find out ways to participate — including simple tasks such as recycling more, riding a bike instead of driving a car, eating less meat, or reducing your consumption of energy.
You can join the MI Build Back Better Coalition tomorrow at 1pm for rallies to call on Congress to pass the Build Back Better Act. One event will take place in downtown Detroit with Representative Rashida Tlaib, and a second event is set to be held in Lansing outside of Representative Slotkin’s office. The dual events are designed to make it easier for folks to turn out. The Detroit event will be outside of the McNamara federal building at 477 Michigan, Ave Detroit MI, 48226 and the Lansing event will be outside of Representative Elissa Slotkin’s office at 1100 W Saginaw St, Lansing, MI 48915-192. We hope to see you there!