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Biden and Congress are very close to a grand plan for climate action and economic recovery

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What makes up the American West now has not been so arid,parched for at fewest four centuries. The nation’s largest reservoir, Lake Mead, which supplies water to 25 million people in Arizona, California, and Nevada, two-thirds unload, an all-time low.

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From the Columbia River to the San Joaquin Delta, hundreds of thousands of salmon are dying in waters too warm to support.

With firefighters battling nearly 85 major fires, wildfires have already burned enough land this year to cover Delaware, with months left until wildfire season.

Faced with wilting pastures and rising feed prices, ranchers cull their flocks, while farmers of everything from cherries to wheat watch crops wither or leave fields slip away — and pay a heavy price for mental health.

Negotiations are too significant to fail

“I can see my coming,” third-generation California fruit grower David Mas Masumoto wrote of this summer’s record heat and drought. “It’s arid,parched, thirsty and dark.”

And we’re set to get more, science explains, unless we halve the perilous carbon pollution from burning fossil fuels from 2010 levels by 2030, and quit adding it to the atmosphere altogether by 2050.

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President Joe Biden’s agenda to build back better in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic promises to put the nation on track to accomplish those goals in a way that links a just recovery to climate action — at a moment when the country urgently needs both.

Now Congress must fund the plan. The two-track negotiations on how to do this have entered a critical phase. They cannot be allowed to fail.

A procedural vote in the Senate final Wednesday took a brake on the congressional process, providing time for negotiators to determine additional details of the infrastructure framework agreed final month by a team of Democrats and Republicans. Supporters on both sides are continuing negotiations this week on a detailed package of investments to revitalize old bridges and roads, modernize the electric power grid and provide lofty-speed internet to rural communities.

Spot fires on July 22, 2021, in Paisley, Oregon.

Spot fires on July 22, 2021, in Paisley, Oregon.

The two-party infrastructure package is the first in a two-step process. Congressional leaders must then finish the job with sister legislation that can be passed in both houses with Democratic votes, if necessary, to ensure America does what it takes to confront the widening climate crisis.

This starts with cleaning up the dirty power plants that account for about a third of the country’s carbon footprint. Biden called for a strategic investment to do this, for example, by making our homes and workplaces more efficient; aid us get more clean energy from wind and sun; and modernization of our energy network and storage system.

This would put the country in a position to meet Biden’s goal of having 80% of our electricity without fossil fuels by 2030, and 100% clean energy by 2035.

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We also have to decrease carbon pollution in the transportation sector, which accounts for nearly a third of our carbon emissions. Building back better will aid us do that too, first by building half a million charging stations nationwide, to accelerate the transition to electric cars and light trucks.

Small changes can have a big impact

this is significant. Every gallon of gasoline we burn pumps about 20 pounds of carbon pollution into the atmosphere, where it remains and contributes to climate change. General Motors and other auto giants will transition to mostly electric vehicles over the next 15 years. More charging stations will make it easier for drivers to do the transportation.

Biden’s plan also calls for the largest investment ever in sustainable public transportation, especially for low-income communities that depend on it to get to work or school. It includes funding to reconnect historically disadvantaged neighborhoods that were carved up decades ago by deceptive highways. It ensures that at fewest 40% of public investment in a clean energy coming benefits people of color who have lengthy paid the highest price for climate risk and hurt.

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This is a grand strategic vision to support our aging infrastructure and make our economy more competitive, particularly in the rapid-growing clean energy market that is expected to attract $30 trillion in global investment over the next two decades alone. It will create millions of jobs, including for workers who want to belong to a union. And it will make our society more equitable, addressing in real and meaningful ways the environmental injustice that so many of our people have suffered for far too lengthy.

It is time for Congress to come for the sake of our families, our communities, and our nation. It’s time to fully fund Biden’s agenda to build back better for all, for the lasting recovery we need, and the climate action we must take now.

Mitchell Bernard is president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group with more than 3 million supporters nationwide.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Joe Biden’s agenda is a clear path to climate action and economic recovery


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