Washington Weekly: November 17, 2021
The Past Week in D.C.
COP26 final update:
- On Saturday, diplomats from nearly 200 countries struck a climate agreement before the end of the COP26 summit.
- While the agreement represents progress over promises made in the 2015 Paris Agreement, experts warn that this agreement still does not go far enough. Positive aspects of the deal include the first ever commitment to internationally curb fossil fuels and acknowledgement that countries need to cut carbon emissions nearly in half this decade to keep warming from exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius. It remained vague, however, on how exactly those cuts will happen, and what wealthy countries will do to help poor countries transition to clean energy and protect them from inevitable climate impacts.
- One specific outcome is that nations agreed to meet again next year to reassess more aggressive carbon emissions goals to put the world on track for 1.5 degrees of warming. For poor countries, “the difference between 1.5 degrees and 2 degrees is a death sentence,” according to Aminath Shuana, the Maldives’ minister of environment, climate change, and technology.
- Despite the United States and the Biden Administration working toward COP26 outcomes (and historic climate legislation), the Administration’s policy decisions back home can directly contradict their climate commitments. Case in point: the Biden Administration is holding the largest-ever oil and gas lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico — over 80 million acres. The future emissions locked in by drilling in these lease areas could amount to as much as 600 million tons of greenhouse gases.
- Read about other key takeaways from the summit here.
Economists and analysts at top rating agencies confirmed on Tuesday that, despite political posturing by many Republicans and some Democrats, the infrastructure law and Build Back Better Act will not add inflationary pressures to the economy. Experts at Moody’s, Fitch Ratings, and others stated that the two pieces of legislation will “neither boost nor quell inflation in the short term,” as they are largely paid for by higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy, and will help lift economic growth in the long-term once the policies included in them are enacted.
A new Washington Post-ABC News poll released last Friday shows that while a vast majority of Americans — 67% — believe climate change is a serious problem, the percentage remains largely unchanged over the past 10 years, even as obvious signs of climate change have become more frequent, and scientists and experts have detailed the incredible urgency around it. When breaking down the same polling by party, however, there have been changes in how seriously Americans take the threat of climate change: Democrats who see climate change as an existential threat rose by 11%, to over 95%, in the past 7 years; independents have remained consistent at 69%; while the number of Republicans who believe climate change is an existential threat has shockingly (or not, given the state of the party) dropped by 10%, to 39%, over the past 7 years.
Michigan LCV Analysis: What does this mean for Michigan?
This week marks another big week for President Biden’s agenda and Democrats’ hopes to regain public support for policy priorities heading into 2022. It also provides yet another example of how Michigan is central to all of it.
On Monday, President Biden signed the bipartisan infrastructure bill into law (with Michigan LCV’s Lisa Wozniak in attendance). Today, the president is visiting a General Motors electric vehicle factory in Detroit to promote the bill’s passage and urge support for the Build Back Better Act. In the coming days, the House plans to bring the BBB Act to a vote on the floor.
The mood at Monday’s signing was celebratory, and for good reason given the political victory it brings and the many ways the law will improve people’s lives. Despite low approval ratings and a tough battle remaining to get his Build Back Better Act across the finish line, the President spoke confidently in front of a large group of mayors, governors, and lawmakers from both parties, stating: “I truly believe that 50 years from now, historians are going to look back at this moment and say, ‘That is the moment America began to win the competition for the 21st century.’”
Next up comes the President’s attempt to promote the $1.2 trillion infrastructure law, starting with key swing states in 2022. He made a stop in New Hampshire yesterday and today is in Michigan. The President’s Michigan trip, where he is visiting the newly opened Detroit-Hamtramck electric vehicle assembly plant, is his fifth trip to the Great Lakes state as president — more than all but four other states, all of which are on the east coast. Not only is this visit a chance to highlight the newly-passed infrastructure law, specifically the historic investment in vehicle electrification programs, but it underscores how critical Michigan is to next year’s midterm elections and his own reelection hopes in 2024.
While in town, the President plans to tour General Motors’ Factory ZERO, GM’s first fully-electric plant, meet factory workers, and talk about how the newly-passed infrastructure law will support efforts by GM, Ford, and other automakers to transition to fully electric vehicles in the coming years and make the U.S. more globally competitive. Rumor has it that he will also test drive the new GMC Hummer EV pickup with echoes of his impromptu test drive of the F-150 Lightning in May.
When he returns to Washington, another major policy priority awaits: passage of the Build Back Better Act, which the President has said he expects to clear the House within the week. The legislation, if passed, would not only provide both historic and urgently needed climate change funding, but, importantly, and despite claims to the contrary by Republicans and Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, will not have a meaningful impact on inflation, according to experts at rating agencies.
This fall has been unquestionably difficult for the President and his domestic agenda, as Democrats split on how to initially pass major legislation and Republicans emerged as clear winners in the November 2 elections. Despite these challenges, however, passage of the infrastructure law is a clear turning point, bolstered by the Build Back Better Act marching forward in congress.
If both pieces of legislation become law in President Biden’s first year in office, there’s no telling what kind of political momentum the President and Democrats will take into 2022 having clearly delivered on campaign promises for the middle class and our planet — both in Michigan and across the country.
A Deeper Dive
Check out these incredible visuals, explained in detail by Gavin Schmidt, Senior Climate Advisor at NASA, to see what climate change looks like from space.
Michigan LCV has been busy rallying to pass the Build Back Better Act with lots of partners. Check out this exciting video compilation of rally highlights from the past few months. The next in-person rally to Build Back Better is this Friday, November 19th at noon in Lansing outside of Representative Slotkin’s office at 1100 W Saginaw St — RSVP with Moms Clean Air Force here.
Lastly, it’s not too late to join our annual gala event (virtually) tonight at 6pm! Click here to reserve your spot.