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Vice President Biden on How the Recovery Act Provides a Roadmap for Tackling Climate Change

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by Madinah Wilson-Anton, Assistant Policy Analyst, Biden Institute

 

In October 2018, the United Nations released a special report1 stating that we must take significant steps to decrease global emissions by 2030 in order to prevent the most extreme, irreversible effects of climate change. Vice President Biden recently made remarks addressing the magnitude of the challenge ahead and made the case that the Recovery Act provides a roadmap for tackling climate change in the years ahead. Read Vice President Biden's full remarks here.

During his remarks at the 87th Annual Meeting of the United States Conference of Mayors in Washington, D.C, Vice President Biden started by reminding the audience just how pivotal the Recovery Act was in staving off an even more dire economic crisis. In 2009, Vice President Biden oversaw the implementation of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a stimulus package which kept the U.S. from falling into another depression.2 The Act injected over $800 billion in to the U.S. economy, creating or saving as many as 3.6 million jobs,3 and this was all done with less than 2/10 of 1% of waste, fraud or abuse.4

 "Ten years ago, we knew we needed a green revolution, we understood the urgency, in terms of people's health…economic growth…quality of life. And with you all, we put the country on a path."

In putting together the Recovery Act, President Obama and Vice President Biden wanted to be sure we were both addressing the immediate economic crisis as well as looking to the future. The Recovery Act's investments in our clean energy future laid the groundwork for future green investments. It provided for the largest single investment in clean energy in U.S. history, totaling over $90 billion.5 Vice President Biden spoke about the importance of the Recovery Act in helping to make major strides in solar and wind energy in cities throughout the country, saying that "the investment helped create hundreds of thousands of clean energy jobs in the years that followed…[and] by the end of the administration, [the U.S. was] generating 30 times as much solar energy…and creating energy jobs at a rate 12 times faster than any other sector of the economy."

 

"The cities of America are the heartbeat of America…Everything that determines what kind of nation we are can be determined by looking at the cities."

The Vice President reminded the mayors just how critical they were in the success of the Recovery Act and that they'll be essential to the success of all our efforts to address climate change. Vice President Biden stressed that the implementation of the Recovery Act simply wouldn't have been possible without the input he received from mayors across the country and their skillful implementation of the plan at the local level. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating the impacts of climate change will require a similar partnership between the federal government and state and local leaders.

The role of local governments is especially critical today. With so much gridlock in Washington and the current administration's decision to walk away from the Paris Agreement, there is so much that can be done at the state and local levels. Vice President Biden highlighted some of the inspiring progress and cited a few cities as examples. Last year, the city of Buffalo6 installed multiple electric vehicle charging stations using a combination of state and local funds, while the city of Honolulu is "leading the nation in solar watts [of energy] per person."7 He added that the amount of energy generated by wind has tripled since the implementation of the Recovery Act, and argued that "there's no reason why we can't quadruple that." Vice President Biden also declared the majority of mayors surveyed8 last year said they planned to take action in 2019 on issues of climate change and sustainability.

 

"Investing in clean energy gives your city a chance to grow and create jobs. But you also know this is about more than that, it's about a matter of survival. The threat posed by climate change is existential."

Local officials are already witnessing the adverse effects of climate change in their communities, including an increase in the frequency and severity of natural disasters and the stresses they put on local infrastructure. But Vice President Biden is confident that addressing these major challenges is possible. He ended his remarks on an optimistic note saying, "This is all within our wheelhouse, and [local officials] demonstrate it more than any other group of elected officials in the United States of America."

 _____________________________

 

ENDNOTES:

1 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), "Global warming of 1.5O C: An IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5O C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty," 2018. https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/

2 The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, "Fact Sheet: Seven Years Ago, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Helped Bring Our Economy Back from the Brink of a Second Great Depression," February 25, 2016. https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2016/02/25/fact-sheet-seven-years-ago-american-recovery-and-reinvestment-act-helped

3 Congressional Budget Office, "Estimated Impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act on Employment and Economic Output from October 2011 Through December 2011," February 2012. http://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/attachments/02-22-ARRA.pdf

4 The White House, Office of the Vice President, "Vice President Biden Delivers New Report to the President on Recovery Act Progress: Ambitious Spending Targets Met; Cost-Savings Fund 3,000 Additional Job-Creating Projects," October 1, 2010. https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2010/10/01/vice-president-biden-delivers-new-report-president-recovery-act-progress

5 The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, "Fact Sheet: The Recovery Act Made the Largest Single Investment in Clean Energy in History, Driving the Deployment of Clean Energy, Promoting Energy Efficiency, and Supporting Manufacturing," February 25, 2016.  https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2016/02/25/fact-sheet-recovery-act-made-largest-single-investment-clean-energy

6 WGRZ, "City of Buffalo Installs Electric Vehicle Charging Stations Downtown," October 11, 2018.  https://www.wgrz.com/article/news/local/city-of-buffalo-installs-electric-vehicle-charging-stations-downtown/71-603490908

7 Bradford and Fanshaw, "Shining Cities 2018: How Smart Local Policies Are Expanding Solar Power in America," Environment America Research and Policy Center and Frontier Group, April 2018. https://environmentamerica.org/sites/environment/files/reports/EA_shiningcities2018_scrn%20%282%29.pdf

8 The United States Conference of Mayors, "As Climate Impacts Threaten Cities, Mayors Take Action: Cities Step in to Lead and Aggressively Fill Void Left by Federal Government," September 2018. https://www.usmayors.org/2018/09/11/as-climate-impacts-threaten-cities-mayors-take-action/

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