Our Moment for Bold Climate Investments in Reconciliation

With the Senate expected to move forward with both the bipartisan infrastructure deal and the $3.5 trillion budget resolution this weekend, Evergreen Co-Director Sam Ricketts issued the following statement: 

"This weekend is a make or break moment for Senate Democrats, who must now turn quickly to a reconciliation package that includes bold investments in climate, jobs and justice. This is our best chance in over a decade to create millions of good paying jobs confronting carbon pollution and building an equitable and thriving clean energy economy. Another opportunity like this will not come again until it is already too late to stave off the worst impacts of climate change.

“To Build Back Better and deliver on the bold agenda for which the American people cast their votes, Congress must immediately advance a budget resolution that includes robust funding for climate, clean energy and environmental justice solutions—without delay. Anything less is unacceptable."

Last month, Evergreen released a memo—6 Key Climate Investments that Must Be in Budget Reconciliation—outlining six areas of critical investments in climate, jobs and justice that were not included in the bipartisan infrastructure deal, and that need to be in the budget reconciliation legislation. Here’s an update on the status of some of these investment priorities:

  • Robust funding for Clean Energy Tax Credits for a range of technologies is critical for inclusion in the reconciliation package. These include ten-year tax incentives for renewable energy generation, electric vehicles, transmission and energy storage, advanced energy manufacturing, and industrial carbon carbon, as well as next-generation technologies like hydrogen and sustainable aviation fuels. Each of these federal tax incentives are essential. And they should also be structured to be maximally accessible and equitable, and promote good-paying jobs and drive investments in disadvantaged communities. This suite of tax credits needs to receive robust funding, through the Senate Finance Committee, on the order of $500 billion—an amount that’s larger than the $300 billion cost that has been suggested by the White House and some federal lawmakers. 

  • Clean Electricity Payment Program (CEPP) would fit with reconciliation rules and mimic the impacts of President Biden’s bold Clean Electricity Standard (CES) upon the power sector, by incentivizing utilities to use more clean energy, and penalizing those that fall short. Such a policy was proposed at $150 billion in the Senate Democrats’ initial budget framework, and advocates are confident this funding will be included in the forthcoming budget resolution, as part of the funding allocation provided to the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee. The CEPP would ensure a cost-effective nation-wide transition to 80% clean electricity by 2030, create good-paying jobs in every region of the country, and achieve over half of President Biden’s commitment for a 50-52% reduction in domestic greenhouse gas pollution by 2030.

  • There are also important environmental justice (EJ) investments that the Senate and House must include in budget reconciliation, to meet the Justice40 Initiative and to help fulfill the EJ commitments President Biden has made has part of his Build Back Better agenda. While a number of important EJ investments were included in the bipartisan infrastructure deal, like funding for Superfund cleanup and lead pipe replacement, additional funding is needed for EJ priorities. This includes significant investment in air pollution monitoring and enforcement as well for updating standards at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Greater funding for electrifying buses that are a significant source of deadly local air pollution. Investments in community capacity-building, through programs like EJ Small Grants. Also, equity mapping investments to help the Biden administration identify those communities most impacted by legacies of toxic pollution and economic disinvestment, and the accelerating harms of climate change. As well as funding for the Department of Justice to increase environmental legal enforcement that was so badly undermined during the Trump administration. Notably, some advocates have expressed concern that a potential $50 billion budget allocation to the Senate Environment & Public Works (EPW) Committee could be insufficient in light of EJ investment needs.

  • Investments in clean buildings are also an important part of Congressional Democrats’ reconciliation agenda, with benefits that include job creation, cost savings in Americans’ energy bills, and reductions in both harmful local criteria air pollution and climate change-driving greenhouse gas pollution. This agenda includes transformative rebates for electric appliances, as proposed in Sen. Martin Heinrich’s (D-NM) Zero Emission Homes Act, and both consumer incentives and direct investments in energy efficiency retrofits. The bipartisan infrastructure deal included over $3 billion for the DOE Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), and Congress must build upon that down payment with much greater investment in the clean buildings agenda, in reconciliation.

  • The creation of a Clean Energy & Sustainability Accelerator, aka Green Bank, in reconciliation could provide vital low-cost financing for clean energy infrastructure projects in market segments in which the private sector is underinvesting. The accelerator—for which Evergreen has fought since its inception—could invest directly in job-creating projects throughout the country. It could also work with state and local green banks, clean energy funds, infrastructure finance authorities, and Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), to leverage aggressive state and local leadership to deploy green projects and create jobs building pollution-free communities. Notably, the accelerator proposed in Congress would target at least 40% of its investment benefits into disadvantaged communities—contributing towards the creation of a more just, equitable and inclusive American clean energy economy.

  • Civilian Climate Corps (CCC) has already been pinpointed as a reconciliation priority by President Biden, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and numerous members of the House and Senate, like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Senator Ed Markey (D-MA). A 21st century CCC is a unique opportunity to create a bold and popular program that would put a generation to work, with a living wage and benefits, training them for stable, good jobs in the clean economy while jumpstarting a nationwide climate workforce mobilization. 

  • Budget reconciliation also presents Congressional Democrats with the opportunity to end fossil fuel subsidies, in order to eliminate polluter giveaways, cut pollution, and also raise revenue to pay for investments in the clean economy. Last week, Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and others announced the Polluters Pay Climate Fund Act, to require the largest U.S. fossil fuel polluters to pay $500 billion for their share of damaging climate pollution over the past two decades. Senate Democrats have also discussed including a methane pollution fee in reconciliation, to end the free ride enjoyed by methane polluters and confront the greatest short-term source of accelerating climate change.