Sunrise Movement activists protest in front of the White House

Activists with the Sunrise Movement protest in front of the White House on June 4, 2021. (Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

With Fossil Fuel Subsidies Intact, Climate Groups Decry BBB Framework as 'Failure of Leadership'

"This spending package is not enough to prove that the U.S. is a global leader in a world in a climate crisis," said one critic.

As oil executives testified Thursday on Capitol Hill about decades of spreading disinformation and refused to commit to an end to fossil fuel lobbying, advocates were outraged by the severely reduced climate action commitments included in Democrats' Build Back Better framework after weeks of negotiations.
President Joe Biden released details Thursday about the $1.75 trillion spending plan--scaled back significantly from the $3.5 trillion proposal put forward by progressives--after meeting with congressional Democrats, saying the proposal now includes $555 billion for programs to incentivize the use of electric vehicles, solar and wind energy, and decarbonize certain industries.

"A climate plan that fails to directly confront the oil and gas industry cannot possibly be considered meaningful."

The failure to end $15 billion in annual direct government subsidies for oil companies like those represented in the House Oversight & Reform Committee hearing, said Food & Watch Watch, represented "a historically significant failure of leadership" on the part of Biden and Democratic leaders.

"On a day when Congress is finally holding the oil and gas industry accountable for its climate disinformation campaigns, President Biden has announced a spending plan that fails to do the same," said Mitch Jones, policy director of the group. "Given the prime opportunity to cancel billions of dollars in domestic subsidies for oil and gas polluters, the president and congressional leadership have rolled over. A climate plan that fails to directly confront the oil and gas industry cannot possibly be considered meaningful."

"We cannot rely on credits, grants, and loans to incentivize our way out of the worsening climate crisis," Jones added, referring to plans to expand grants and loans to boost clean energy in rural areas and the agricultural sector, manufacturing credits, and other initiatives.

Those financial incentives will replace plans for the Clean Electricity Performance Program (CEPP), which would have rewarded utilities for using renewable energy sources and forced big polluters to pay for every ton of carbon they emitted.
Greenpeace noted that the $555 billion in climate spending will leave Biden falling short of "his own climate targets."
The clean electricity initiative would have eliminated carbon emissions from the power sector by 2035, with the president pushing to reach net-zero emissions in the U.S. by 2050. The package also leaves out a fee for methane use by the oil and gas industries, a provision that was reportedly cut from the framework at the insistence of right-wing Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).
"The Biden administration and Congress's inability to craft a bill that ends taxpayer funding of the industry most responsible for the climate crisis is a betrayal of Biden's campaign promise, the will of the people who elected him, and a failure to deliver on a globally agreed-upon, common-sense climate policy," said Janet Redman, climate campaign director for Greenpeace USA.
The framework was released just days before the president is set to attend the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 26) in Glasgow, and left climate advocates alarmed over the message the package sends to the international community as countries prepare to make their own commitments to tackle the planetary emergency.
"This spending package is not enough to prove that the U.S. is a global leader in a world in a climate crisis," said Redman.
The Sunrise Movement, which has led protests in recent weeks demanding that right-wing Democratic senators including Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) end their obstruction of the Build Back Better agenda, emphasized that progressives in Congress still have to agree to the package that resulted from weeks of negotiations.
"This framework is exactly that--it's just a framework," said executive director Varshini Prakash. "A deal is not a deal until progressives agree to it."
Prakash called the $555 billion proposed investment in climate action "promising" but said the elimination of numerous provisions to help lower- and middle-class families was "appalling and frankly cruel," warning, "progressives are the ones who have fought like hell for Biden's full agenda, and their votes cannot be taken for granted."
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) told Politico that House progressives "need to have certainty, either through legislative text, through uniform agreement, that we can trust" that the pared-down reconciliation package will have the support of all 50 Democrats in the Senate before the narrower Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework (BIF) is passed.
"First and foremost, passing BIF alone, I do not think is a positive climate message," said Ocasio-Cortez. "I think having and agreeing on a plan to draw down emissions and invest in environmental justice in this country is what we want to send the president to Glasgow with."
The Sunrise Movement and other progressive groups echoed Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who made a similar demand.
"We stand with Sen. Sanders and House Progressives on needing to see the legislative text, ensuring Sen. Manchin and Sinema vote for the reconciliation package, and passing reconciliation in the House before the House brings the BIF to a vote," said Prakash.
Redman called the framework "a clarion call to the climate movement and all who care about their kids' futures to double down and demand climate action at the scale, speed, and ambition necessary," expressing hope that fossil fuel subsidies could still be eliminated from the final version of the spending package.
"We will continue to push for aggressive climate policies and to eliminate all fossil fuel subsidies until the final bill is signed," said Redman.

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