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Environmentalists Warn Biden Not to Abandon Climate Plans to Appease Republicans

Abandoning key climate proposals could be politically disastrous and damaging to the fight against the climate crisis.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, lead Republican negotiator with the Biden administration on infrastructure, speaks during a news conference with Senators Pat Toomey and John Barrasso at the U.S. Capitol on May 27, 2021, in Washington, D.C.

Environmentalists are warning President Joe Biden against ditching critical green energy investments and other climate policies in his effort to strike an infrastructure deal with congressional Republicans, many of whom continue to deny the scientific reality of human-caused planetary heating.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that “in multiple rounds of talks, Republican lawmakers have held firm in opposition against key White House plans to address the changing climate, add $400 billion in funding for elder care, and a slew of other domestic priorities the administration is pushing for families and children.”

“A second bipartisan group of lawmakers, meanwhile, is readying its own backup plan that is also likely to jettison some key climate and elder-care policies pushed by the White House,” the Post continued. “If centrists in both parties strike a deal, Biden probably would be forced to choose between accepting a compromise that leaves out these proposals, or rejecting a bipartisan infrastructure deal aides have long sought as a political triumph.”

Likely left on the cutting room floor under such a scenario, according to the Post’s Jeff Stein, would be Biden’s proposals to end federal fossil fuel subsidies, fund the retrofitting of buildings and homes, establish hundreds of thousands of new electric vehicle charging stations, bolster the aging U.S. electric grid, and invest in climate resilience.

Progressive activists were quick to argue that abandoning such commitments in the interest of reaching a deal with the GOP would be both politically disastrous and damaging to the fight against the global climate crisis, which Biden has dubbed an “existential threat” that requires immediate and bold action.

“This right here is how the White House loses the majority, gives up on progress, forfeits the midterms, and abandons all hope and change,” said Drew Hudson, an organizer with Friends of the Earth Action.

Evan Weber, political director of the youth-led Sunrise Movement, pointed to a survey conducted just prior to the 2020 election showing that Democratic voters view climate change as the “most important” issue.

Led by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) — an ally of the fossil fuel industry — Republicans are set Thursday to send the White House an infrastructure counteroffer that is expected to confirm the GOP’s opposition to including key climate plans in the package. The Republican proposal is likely to be around $1 trillion in size, down from the roughly $2.2 trillion in spending Biden proposed in the initial version of his American Jobs Plan.

“Our future depends on immediate and aggressive climate action,” tweeted NextGen America, a climate-focused advocacy organization. “We again urge the president to move ahead with the original American Jobs Plan. We can’t afford to wait on science-denying Republicans.”

Imploring Democrats to use their control of Congress and the White House to press ahead on infrastructure and climate, Devyn Powell of Evergreen Action argued that “Republicans aren’t going to vote for this bill in any form” and are not “negotiating in good faith.”

“Why are Dems trying to give up what could be our last and only chance to go big on climate?” Powell asked. “What is wrong with you?”

The Post reported Wednesday that some top Democrats believe they will be able to “come back after the bipartisan deal and pass an additional package with the remaining priorities” left out of the infrastructure package. But one unnamed White House adviser warned that is a risky strategy given time constraints, Democrats’ vanishingly narrow majority, and other factors.

“They’re going to try to sell us on the idea that they’ll do the leftovers as part of a bigger package, but the truth is that there’s an enormous amount of speculation and nobody really knows what they’ll be able to do,” the adviser said.

Duncan Meisel, campaign director at Clean Creatives, noted on Twitter that “Democrats were elected on a wave of energy from young people demanding climate action.”

“If Democrats decide that climate priorities can be put off for later,” Meisel added, “don’t be surprised if young people put off voting for them again.”

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