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Time to tackle climate change, with the Build Back Better Act

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Jeremy Gragert

Jeremy Gragert

Our country has faced record heat waves, wildfires, drought, extreme storms, and flooding this past summer and they have made one thing undeniably clear — the climate crisis is here and only worsening. We need our lawmakers to act on climate. There is no time to waste.

Last weekend, the U.S. House of Representatives completed work on a bipartisan infrastructure package and agreed to move forward with the transformative Build Back Better Act (BBBA). It includes unprecedented investments to address the climate crisis, cut carbon pollution, protect wildlife, deliver action on environmental justice, reduce energy bills for working families, and create millions of quality union jobs.

The House plans to vote on the BBBA soon. We need the House to send the strongest possible BBBA to the United States Senate. If passed with the proposed $555 billion in climate investments, it will be the most significant climate investment in our nation’s history — 10 times greater than any previous action.

Once signed into law, it will put our country on a path to cut carbon pollution in half by 2030 (from 2005 levels), while building a more just and equitable economy.

Here in Western Wisconsin, we are counting on Congressman Ron Kind to vote for the BBBA, and fight for the funding we need to tackle climate change on the local level. It would also help protect our communities from immediate threats like unsafe drinking water from PFAS contamination, which has been discovered on French Island north of La Crosse, and my community of Eau Claire.

With $55 billion to upgrade water and wastewater infrastructure nationwide, the bipartisan infrastructure deal begins to invest in replacing lead service lines and as well as PFAS mitigation. Of that, Wisconsin is expected to receive $841 million over the next five years.

However, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers, 10 times that amount (or $8.6 billion) is needed to fully improve Wisconsin’s more than 11,000 public water systems in the coming decades. That is why we cannot stop now, and we must push forward with more investments through the BBBA so we can make a transformational difference on everyday basic needs like clean drinking water.

The BBBA also recognizes that good paying jobs and a reinvigorated workforce is part of how we can accomplish the changes we need to see in urban and rural communities alike, so $30 billion would go toward the creation of a Civilian Climate Corps. This 21st century version of the Civilian Conservation Corps would train and inspire the next generation of clean energy and conservation leaders, over 300,000 strong, who could tackle climate change in their own communities. This diverse new workforce will conserve our public lands, bolster community resilience, and address the changing climate, all while putting good-paying union jobs within reach for more Americans.

There is broad support across the political spectrum for climate action that moves our nation toward clean energy. The BBBA includes $320 billion for clean energy tax credits, something that 72% of voters support, and electric vehicle tax credits that will make clean cars and transit more affordable, which 61% of voters support.

We need to act now or face the worst consequences of climate change. The remedy is for the House and Senate to meet the moment and pass the Build Back Better Act. When Kind announced his retirement in August, he said that global climate change needs desperate action at all levels, and this is his opportunity to leave a lasting legacy.

Jeremy Gragert is the Wisconsin representative for the National Wildlife Federation, and a member of the Eau Claire City Council.

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