A coalition of 39 climate activist organizations penned a letter to President Joe Biden and senior members of Congress to express support for certain provisions in the proposed bipartisan infrastructure package, also urging the administration to take additional, more serious actions to address climate change.
In a letter first published by The Hill on Wednesday, the groups — which included the Sunrise El Paso, NextGen America, the Black Millennial Convention, the Revolution Coalition and more — said the deadline to take “meaningful action” on climate change is rapidly approaching.
A first step, the groups said, would be for Congress to pass the bipartisan infrastructure plan.
“President Biden, we see your infrastructure package as a key building block for a more just and equitable future, one where clean energy replaces dirty fuel sources, family-sustaining union jobs are plentiful, and the communities which have traditionally borne the brunt of climate and other pollution can be made whole,” the letter read in part.
The statement specifically praised allocations aimed at overhauling the public transportation system and a heavy focus on electric vehicle infrastructure. Biden has spoken often of the electric vehicle future he envisions for the United States, frequently emphasizing the role such vehicles will play in tackling climate change and creating jobs.
Senators are currently debating amendments to the 2,700-plus page bill, dubbed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
As it stands, the bill contains $110 billion in new spending for roads and bridges, $55 billion for water and wastewater infrastructure, $39 billion for public transit and $66 billion for rail. There’s also to be billions for airports, ports, broadband internet and electric vehicle charging stations.
But the bill falls far short of President Biden’s pledge to transform the nation’s heavily fossil-fuel powered economy into a clean-burning one and stop climate-damaging emissions from U.S. power plants by 2035.
Notably, the deal omits mention of a Clean Electricity Standard, a key element of Biden’s climate plan that would require the electric grid to replace fossil fuels with renewable sources such as solar, wind and hydropower.
Nor does it include a Civilian Climate Corps, a Biden favorite and a nod to the Great Depression-era New Deal that would put millions of Americans to work on conservation projects, renewable energy and helping communities recover from climate disasters.
That proposal was an important one to many of the youth groups signed on to Wednesday’s letter, which said the corps would “mobilize a generation of young people to work improving our communities and getting the climate crisis under control.”
While the creation of a climate corps is not included the Senate’s version of the bill, Democrats plan to put it into an upcoming $3.5 trillion reconciliation package that would address many of Biden's priorities left out of the current legislation.
Biden had proposed a $10 billion investment to kickstart the CCC, which activists say is far too little to make a real difference. Signatories on Wednesday's letter asked the government to up the allocation to upwards of $60 billion in order to "more appropriately match the scale of the climate and jobs crises we face."
Wednesday’s letter also urged Congress to “move swiftly to get the big and bold investments our climate and our communities need over the finish line this summer as a down payment on the long-term mobilization and investment we need to put the country on track toward a cleaner, more prosperous future.”
“We see this moment as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to get this right – and we may well be the generation that will feel the impact of failure and benefit most from the rewards of victory,” the letter continued.
Some of the groups hope to hold the administration accountable to climate-focused promises made by Kamala Harris and Joe Biden dating back to the campaign trail, saying the youth vote turned out in force for the ticket due in part to their commitment to addressing climate change.
“Now is the time for bold action on behalf of the generation that will suffer most deeply from the consequences of climate change,” NextGen's president Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez said in part in an emailed statement to Spectrum News.
“The administration must keep its promises and ensure that protecting the future of our planet is included in any final agreements on infrastructure,” Ramirez continued. “President Biden will be judged on his courage in meeting this moment for the young people whose futures are threatened by runaway climate change.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.