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Major Missed Opportunity on Clean Energy Incentives to Reduce Carbon Emissions

The stakes could not be higher. The climate crisis is a health emergency. 

Runoff from melting permafrost in Alaska flows toward the sea.

Runoff from melting permafrost in Alaska flows toward the sea. (Photo: NOAA)

Congress just passed on a major opportunity to take action on clean energy incentives—and, thus, the climate crisis—before 2019 comes to an end.

Fossil fuels pour accelerants on the climate crisis. Our future depends on our willingness to embrace clean energy sources instead. 

Yet, when the House of Representatives approved a $1.4 trillion spending package on December 17, it declined to support several clean energy tax incentives in the federal budget year-end spending bill, including opportunities to spur investment and innovation in energy storage, offshore wind, and clean energy production like solar, energy-efficient buildings, and electric vehicles. 

Using the tax code to further promote clean energy would have been an achievable victory, and it would have signaled that Congress is prepared to make addressing the climate crisis a priority next year. 

Congress can and must do better.

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The stakes could not be higher. The climate crisis is a health emergency. As reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and other expert analyses have concluded, time is running out to avert the worst impacts of the climate crisis and limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The impacts on human health will be catastrophic if we fail to enact bold, to-scale solutions that protect our communities and build resilience. We can't afford to wait. Our health, and our children's health, depend on action now.

The United States can and should lead on efforts to curb climate change, and we should also become a leader on a rapid, just transition away from fossil fuels to clean, safe renewable energy sources. There are key steps decision-makers in Congress can take today that would go a long way toward not only avoiding the worst impacts, but ensuring a better, healthier future for our communities. Measures like devoting funding to clean energy tax incentives don't just benefit our health: they also benefit our economy and uplift our communities. That's something worth fighting for, and this is a fight for the future. We must win.

Thanks to our broken political system, advancing climate change legislation has been a steep, frustrating uphill battle. It sometimes seems like climate denialism will win the day, and we’ll be faced with an even bleaker future thanks to inaction. Measures like clean energy tax incentives that have bipartisan support create a critical opportunity for decision-makers to make significant steps forward. There is simply no excuse for not including them in our must-pass spending priorities.

Several members of Congress expressed "disappointment" this week over the failure to include clean energy incentives in the must-pass year-end spending bill. Let’s encourage them to go further by pledging to advance bold measures to address the climate crisis early in the coming year. 

After all, what better way to ring in the new year than to make a strong commitment to tackle the climate crisis, which poses one of the gravest threats to human health and survival and whose effects on our communities will greatly impact the years to come?

Jeff Carter

Jeff Carter

Jeff Carter is the Executive Director of Physicians for Social Responsibility, www.psr.org.

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