an imperfect bill to weather a perfect storm

As the planet’s temperature rises, the climate emergency intensifies a little more each day. Increasingly frequent and powerful heat waves, wildfires, floods and hurricanes are costing billions of dollars and causing unprecedented human migration, fueling conflict around the world. Despite the seriousness of the problem, there is still time to announce some good news. As governments prepare for the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference in Egypt in mid-November, progress in tackling catastrophic climate change suggests, against all odds, that all is not lost.

In the United States – the world’s largest historical emitter of greenhouse gases – the Senate has passed what has been described as the most significant climate legislation in the country’s history. The bill went through the so-called “reconciliation” mechanism, which allows legislation to pass with 50 votes instead of the usual 60. Voting ended with 51 votes in favor and 50 against, including a deciding vote by US Vice President Kamala. Harris.

Once the House of Representatives passes the bill and President Biden signs it into law, some $370 billion will be allocated to fund a wide range of programs aimed at reducing U.S. carbon emissions by 40 % by 2030 from 2005 levels. Much of this money will fund tax breaks and incentives to purchase and install renewable energy equipment, such as solar panels and wind turbines, as well as to invest in the use of clean energy in industry. Up to $60 billion in incentives are planned to bring wind, solar and other renewable energy technologies to poor and marginalized communities that have long been excluded from green energy investment projects.

However, primarily to win the support of Democratic Senator from West Virginia, conservative Joe Manchin, the bill also includes significant concessions, such as large profits for the fossil fuel industry. Manchin has made a personal fortune worth millions of dollars from his coal-related family business and is the largest recipient of fossil fuel industry donations to the US Congress. One of the concessions won by Manchin was a side deal to speed permitting for fossil fuel projects, including the controversial Mountain Valley pipeline. If built, the pipeline will transport some 57 million cubic meters of fractured gas through more than 1,000 rivers and wetlands in the Appalachian region, including parts of West Virginia.

Indigenous lawyer and activist Tara Houska, founder of the Giniw collective, told Democracy Now! in an interview: “To encourage investment in renewable energy, they are redoubling their efforts to support the fossil fuel industry. […] In order to get dollars and investments in renewable energy, millions upon millions of acres of publicly owned land and water are being given away to the fossil fuel industry for [oil and gas] projects. This is a setback for environmental law. And all this to obtain investments in renewable energies. This is not a solution to fight the climate crisis. Mother Nature does not operate in US dollars.

Brett Hartl, director of government affairs for the environmental group Center for Biological Diversity, called the bill a “suicidal climate pact.” Commenting on the 40% reduction in carbon emissions in the United States that the bill is expected to achieve, Robert Weismann, president of Public Citizen, told Democracy Now! “It’s not enough, but it’s an important step. This is significant when we know that it would have been worse to do nothing, which was unfortunately the other alternative available to us.

Meanwhile, in Colombia, the first leftist president and first leftist vice president in the country’s history were sworn in on Sunday. The president, Gustavo Petro, is a former guerrilla fighter who later served as a senator and mayor of the city of Bogotá. Meanwhile, Francia Márquez made history by becoming the first Colombian woman of African descent to serve as Vice President. Márquez, a former domestic worker, is a renowned social leader who received the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize in 2018 for her work organizing women in the community of La Toma, in Colombia’s Cauca region, in their fight against the illegal gold mining.

An important part of the new government’s policy platform is to accelerate the transition to renewable energy sources and reduce Colombia’s heavy reliance on oil and coal extraction.

Regarding the Petro government’s proposal to ban hydraulic fracturing, Enrique Peñalosa, another former mayor of Bogotá, said on Twitter: “[Banning fracking] just means that the oil dollars will stay in the ground, that young Colombians will have fewer opportunities, that there will be fewer public works”. In response, Petro said, “Brother, the problem is not how many dollars will be left in the ground if fracking is not done, but how many lives are lost above ground if it is. do.

Real change comes from the momentum of powerful grassroots movements. The new Colombian leaders know this well. In the United States, the role of grassroots movements is often diluted by the army of lobbyists who flood the offices of politicians and government officials with billions of dollars in anonymous corporate donations to fund their political careers.

Rob Weismann of Public Citizen noted that “[the positive gains included in the new law] would not have been achieved without national social mobilization and the presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders, who put this issue on the agenda and pushed it through Congress.

Varshini Prakash, founder of the Sunrise movement, called for action. In a message on her Twitter account, she posted: “This is not the bill my generation deserves, but it is the one we can get. It has to pass so that we have a chance to fight for a livable world”. He concluded, “We youth leaders call on members of Congress to pass this bill and get back to work.

The original article can be found here

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