Over the last two weeks, thousands of representatives from more than 200 nations, non-governmental organizations, and businesses gathered in Glasgow, Scotland, to advance collective action on the most dangerous threat our planet faces: the climate crisis.
I was proud to represent the U.S. Congress with my colleagues last week at COP26 — the United Nations Climate Change Conference — and I returned more invigorated than ever in the fight to protect our planet for future generations.
The takeaway for all of us was clear: we must rapidly and drastically reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to limit global temperature increases and stave off the worst effects of climate change.
As our delegation underscored at the conference, America is back in that fight. After four long years of climate science denial from the previous administration, the United States is on the verge of making the largest single investment to combat climate change in our nation’s history.
Paired with the already-passed bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the Build Back Better Act represents our best chance to take the kind of action that will meet the scale of the crisis we face, and we cannot let this opportunity slip away.
The total climate investment in the Build Back Better Act is $555 billion, more than six times larger than the last major climate investment under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. This historic bill would help us meet our national goal of cutting greenhouse gas pollution in half by 2030 while also reducing our energy costs, giving our kids cleaner air and water, and protecting vulnerable communities that often suffer the worst effects of climate change.
The bill will reduce energy costs by providing significant consumer rebates for electrification and strengthening home energy and efficiency tax credits. It will make it less expensive to buy clean cars by providing up to $12,500 for the purchase of electric vehicles made in America.
It will make our air safer to breathe by placing stricter penalties on companies that allow pollutants into the air. And it’s going to make our water safer to drink by replacing lead pipes.
These policies won’t just combat climate change and protect our planet, they will create hundreds of thousands of good jobs and grow our economy. As I have said for years, we must debunk the myth that climate action can only come at the expense of our economy. That has never been true, and California has proven it.
California has led the way in transitioning from fossil fuels toward renewable energy, changing the way we move people and goods, and protecting our air and water. And since we made those investments, our economy has grown significantly. Our gross domestic product increased 21% over the last five years.
The next two states — New York (14%) and Texas (12%) —aren’t even close. California is now home to 36% of the United States’ renewable energy industry, and those companies have increased their labor force by 35% since 2019.
Investing in climate action is an investment in our economy, in jobs, and in American competitiveness on the global stage. That has always been true, and it’s one more reason why we must pass the Build Back Better Act with all of the climate policies it currently includes. And anyone who tries to argue that climate action will impede economic growth simply isn’t following the reality of what we’ve experienced in California.
I went to the climate conference with California’s experience in mind. When we make bold investments in climate action, we aren’t just protecting our planet, we are lifting up millions of working families with good-paying jobs.
We must pass the Build Back Better Act with its historic investments in climate action. Anything less would be a moral failure for our children and grandchildren.
Rep. Mike Levin represents the 49th District, which encompasses north coastal San Diego and south Orange counties.