Editor’s note: This piece was updated on Tuesday, Nov. 2, and then again on Friday, Nov. 19, to include the most recent information on the new framework of the Build Back Better plan.
The United States House of Representatives has passed the strongest climate legislation in the country’s history in a vote on Friday, Nov. 19, mostly along party lines.
Now the Build Back Better Act will go to the Senate, where further policy amendments will be made before a vote is scheduled. Overall, this opportunity may be the last chance to pass meaningful policy on the issue of climate change for years to come.
That’s why Global Citizen has joined the call to declare a “code red for humanity” to urge Congress to address the climate crisis by sending the Build Back Better Act to President Joe Biden’s desk. Signing the bill into law is essential for achieving the country's climate goals.
The bill would set in motion significant climate action that would be hard to reverse by a future president. The current framework aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and invest in a clean energy economy, the centerpiece of which is $550 billion in tax incentives for producers and purchasers of wind, solar, and nuclear power. This could help speed up a transition from oil, gas, and coal — fossil fuels that drive climate change by releasing large amounts of carbon emissions when they’re burned.
Meanwhile, the legislation would also benefit buyers of electric vehicles, who would receive up to $12,500 in tax credits, depending on what portion of the vehicle parts were made in the US. The rest of the climate spending would be distributed among a mix of clean energy programs and other climate friendly initiatives, including funding for communities hit hardest by environmental and economic injustice.
The latest Build Back Better framework, however, no longer includes the Clean Energy Performance Program, which would have rewarded power companies that increased their share of renewables by 4% each year and penalized those that didn’t. This program, the original centerpiece of the legislation’s climate section, would have helped propel the United States toward its goal to cut emissions by 50% to 52% compared to 2005 levels by 2030.
While the legislation could have included this and much more to end all fossil fuel subsidies, create nature-based solutions, and hold polluters accountable, the US will not be able to reach its climate targets without passing the bill, even in its current iteration.
All of this comes into sharper focus as world leaders, including Biden, return to domestic policy concerns after attending COP26 in Glasgow, where little progress was made to align the global economy with the Paris climate agreement.
The time to delay climate action has passed. More than 99% of scientists are convinced that carbon pollution from industrial activities is causing the atmosphere and ocean to warm up and destabilize the climate. Without immediate investments to limit global pollution, they argue, the planet will experience catastrophic impacts in the years ahead.
This past year has shown what these threats look like — wildfires and heat waves pummeling the west coast, hurricanes flooding major cities, and critical sources of water running dry.
All of these events disproportionately harm marginalized communities and, left unchecked, will worsen global inequality. Low-income countries, in particular, stand to experience the harshest climate consequences and have the least resources to adapt to them. As part of the Paris climate agreement, industrialized nations have pledged to provide $100 billion in annual funding for climate action measures (a target that was meant to be reached in 2020, and isn't set to be reached until 2023) and the US must pay its fair share.
The Build Back Better Act is a rare opportunity to chart a new path toward climate recovery and planetary regeneration. Not only that, investing in renewable energy, stronger and more resilient infrastructure, and a just transition would create millions of jobs for Americans and save families money on their monthly utility bills.
Artists such as Billie Eilish and FINNEAS, Mark Ruffalo, LL Cool J, Chuck D (Public Enemy), Damian Marley, Jon Batiste, Maroon 5, Dave Matthews Band, Jane Fonda, Grouplove, and many others have raised their voices in support of the bill.
The climate crisis is here and it’s a code red threat for the planet. The US has an opportunity to lead the world to a sustainable future while creating jobs and saving lives. It starts with the #BuildBackBetter act - and it needs support! #CodeRedCongresspic.twitter.com/BjZ5gLpakA— Global Citizen (@GlblCtzn) September 22, 2021
And they’re not the only ones. The American public broadly supports climate legislation. For too long, the fossil fuel industry and other heavy polluters have been able to spew cancer-causing fumes into the air, leak toxic substances into sources of drinking water, and destroy the public commons of the global environment — all while profiting extravagantly.
The code red for humanity has been flashing for years — now is the time to do something about it.