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Ed Markey

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) speaks at a press conference about climate provisions in the Build Back Better bill outside the U.S. Capitol October 7, 2021. (Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

'No Time to Waste': Climate Leaders Call for Passing Reconciliation Bill Before UN Summit

"When President Biden meets with world leaders in Glasgow next month at COP 26, they won't ask him whether he built roads and bridges with Republican votes, they'll ask what he did to deliver on his climate commitments."

Jessica Corbett

"Climate inaction is not an option, the climate emergency is here and we are living it… We cannot miss this once-in-a-generation opportunity to act for a cleaner, healthier future."

"Biden cannot go to COP 26 to negotiate global cooperation on climate, when he cannot even cut a good deal for climate and pass his own Build Back Better agenda here at home, with his own party."

Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) delivered that warning outside the U.S. Capitol on Thursday, joined by Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) as well as leaders of advocacy groups including Evergreen Action, Hip Hop Caucus, and the Sunrise Movement.

The senators and activists came together to reiterate a message about the Build Back Better budget reconciliation bill that they have directed at Congress and President Joe Biden for several months—"No Climate, No Deal"—and to call for passing the package ahead of COP 26, the United Nations summit in Glasgow, Scotland scheduled to start at the end of the month.

"No climate, no deal, because a compromise on climate is a compromise on me, my family, and my home," said Sunrise's Nikayla Jefferson. "Our lives are worth the full effort and expense of this government, because what else is the government for, except to protect and preserve us?"

"If Biden and Congress do not pass a deal with full measures for climate, including 45% emissions reduction by 2030," she continued, "they will have failed their one job, and this country should feel embarrassed at the level of incompetence and corruption that has taken over our elected officials."

Looking ahead to the U.N. summit, Jefferson added that "Biden cannot go to COP 26 to negotiate global cooperation on climate, when he cannot even cut a good deal for climate and pass his own Build Back Better agenda here at home, with his own party."

Democrats in the evenly split Senate are trying to use the filibuster-proof budget reconciliation process to pass the package, but that still requires gaining support from all caucus members—and two right-wingers, Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), are still standing in the way of their party and the president's agenda.

The senators at the Thursday press conference made clear both their commitment to the initial message and the urgent need for action, with Van Hollen warning that "we are in a time of crisis, and we don't control the schedule—this is Mother Nature's schedule.

Smith said that "climate change isn't waiting and we know the clean energy transition will have to happen. The question is whether we are going to lead or follow, and I want us to lead."

Markey pointed out that passage of the Build Back Better Act is necessary to advance a smaller bipartisan infrastructure package. He also noted that "when Congress was negotiating infrastructure this summer, Sens. Wyden, Van Hollen, Smith, and I said very clearly—No Climate, No Deal."

"We stand fast to that pledge," he declared. "Congress needs to pass a robustly funded, climate-focused reconciliation bill to address the most important issue confronting our world—the climate crisis. We have no time to waste."

The advocacy organization leaders agreed. Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr., president and CEO of Hip Hop Caucus, said that "for the sake of our people and our planet, Congress must act."

"We need climate justice now," he said. "This bill is our best opportunity to stop the climate crisis and to invest in the Black, brown, and Indigenous communities bearing the brunt of it. No climate, no deal, and no excuses—it's time for Congress to pass Joe Biden's climate plan."

Evergreen Action coalitions lead Wes Gobar highlighted that "this is the overwhelmingly popular agenda Biden campaigned on that has unified the entire Democratic caucus, moderates and progressives alike."

Noting some of the package's main climate provisions, Gobar said that "Congress must deliver the Build Back Better Act with a Clean Electricity Performance Program, clean energy tax credits, and more, to finally put the U.S. on a path to cut our climate pollution in half by 2030."

"The eyes of the American people are on Congress right now, but so are the eyes of the world," he said. "When President Biden meets with world leaders in Glasgow next month at COP 26, they won't ask him whether he built roads and bridges with Republican votes, they'll ask what he did to deliver on his climate commitments."


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