LETTER: Advance climate, justice with COVID-19 economic stimulus

March 20, 2020

The Honorable Charles Schumer

Minority Leader

U.S. Senate

Washington, D.C. 20510
The Honorable Mitch McConnell

Majority Leader

U.S. Senate

Washington, D.C. 20510
The Honorable Nancy Pelosi

Speaker

U.S. House of Representatives

Washington, D.C. 20515
The Honorable Kevin McCarthy

Minority Leader

U.S. House of Representatives

Washington, D.C. 20515

March 20, 2020

Dear Speaker Pelosi, Leader McCarthy, Leader McConnell, and Leader Schumer,

On behalf of our millions of members, supporters, and workers, we the undersigned strongly support your efforts to respond to the COVID-19 global public health crisis and its economic ramifications and believe that any government economic stimulus package or supplemental funding in response at least should not exacerbate two other ongoing crises – climate change and environmental injustice – and rather should advance solutions that boost economic recovery and tackle those two crises as well.

Further government support for the fossil fuel industry, which already receives approximately $13 billion annually in subsidies, should be no part of a COVID-19 economic recovery package, other than direct support to workers. Support to industries struggling with the ramifications of the public’s exemplary social distancing response to mitigate COVID-19’s impacts should explicitly help transition those industries to a clean energy future to both reduce toxic air and water pollution immediately and cut carbon pollution as well. Whether for the airline, cruise line, vehicle manufacturing, or other industries, Congress should require and encourage larger steps towards clean energy use, energy efficiency, a carbon price or verified offsets, and air and water pollution reductions that would mitigate in line with scientific recommendations both climate change and environmental injustice. Stimulative public infrastructure spending should target low-wealth communities and communities of color long burdened by environmental pollution and under-investment, and any new highway infrastructure funding should be matched with new transit and active transportation infrastructure spending. Projects should also further prepare and speed recovery in low-wealth communities and communities of color more vulnerable to climate change’s impacts with clean energy, drinking water, and green infrastructure projects, whether stormwater and sewage system upgrades, floodwater-absorbing greenspaces, electric vehicles and charging stations, or parks, trails, and outdoor spaces.

Industries leading the transition to clean energy and net-zero carbon emissions have been hard hit by the economic downturn from COVID-19 and the concomitant response. Forms of public transportation are seeing drastic reductions in ridership and fare collection amounts, while still needing to operate in order to provide essential services to communities and entire cities. Boosting funding for transit agencies and the low and no emissions bus programs would help transition to cleaner transportation and go a long way to keeping these lifelines running and strengthen their position over the longer term. Residential rooftop solar installation orders have dried up and projects have been cancelled, global supply chain disruptions for essential parts and equipment for utility-scale wind and solar energy and energy storage have resulted in delayed completion dates already by several months and increased the likelihood that they might not qualify for tax incentives set to expire or step down at the end of the calendar year, and projects earlier in the pipeline will no longer have the necessary affordable capital needed to move to fruition. Extending the existing investment tax credit, and expanding it to include storage and offshore wind, and allowing the credit for these to be refundable in the short term could provide the necessary infusion of capital and stability in an essential, growing piece of our country’s infrastructure and jobs market with a 300,000 strong workforce that we need working on climate solutions. Electric vehicle manufacturing has seen similar impacts from supply chain disruptions and reduced orders for zero-emissions cars, trucks, and buses, and extending the existing tax credit and further incentivizing supply chain manufacturing in the US could boost jobs and competitiveness and the percentage of zero-emissions cars, trucks and buses on our roads.

We applaud your swift response to the COVID-19 public health crisis and reemphasize the need for smart investments to address the ongoing crises of climate change and environmental injustice. The climate crisis is not slowing down and our collective efforts to combat it should not slow down either. The rapid and vast response to the COVID-19 public health crisis reinforces our hope that a similarly large-scale coordinated response is possible to tackle the ongoing climate crisis and environmental injustice together. We can and must bend the infection curve of COVID-19 over the coming weeks and months to allow our healthcare system to handle the burden of severe illness that is materializing. Similarly, we can and must bend the carbon emissions curve to zero over the coming years and decades to allow our human and natural systems to handle the burden of climate change and climate-charged disasters that is materializing.

Sincerely,

Alaska Wilderness League Action

Alaska Youth for Environmental Action (AYEA.org)

Anchorage Solar

Center for American Progress

Clean Water Action

Defenders of Wildlife

Earthjustice

Endangered Species Coalition

Hip Hop Caucus

League of Conservation Voters

National Wildlife Federation

Oceana

Physicians for Social Responsibility

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy

Sierra Club

Solarize the Kenai

The Climate Reality Project

World Wildlife Fund

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