Making The Climate Debate More Sustainable

Madeline Wade

Vice President of Advocacy, Madeline Wade discusses the significant factors surrounding climate policy and shares solutions on making the climate debate more successful.

With the Build Back Better Act on pause, there is an intensified push for strategic restructuring to push climate policy over the finish line. And there’s a reason to be optimistic that this could happen. With a growing number of stakeholders engaging on climate policy, including companies, non-profits, and municipalities, it’s become a crowded table of sectors, groups, and individuals that are invested in comprehensive federal climate policy. While more stakeholders than ever before are at the table, there’s still significantly more work to be done to make climate policy a must-pass issue not just in this Congress but in every Congress and Administration to come.
Reports like NOAA’s recent findings show that extreme weather last year alone tragically killed 10,500 people and cost governments on average $1 billion per major natural disaster.  As we see alarming trends, Americans’ appetite for action on climate change continues to grow. According to Pew, six-in-ten Americans now view climate change as “a major threat” when showing up to the polls. Red and blue states across the country are taking action and corporations catering to these same Americans are reacting as well. Banks are requiring the companies it loans to significantly reduce emissions and more shareholders are demanding that companies take meaningful action to combat climate change. What’s increasingly clear is that the sooner the federal government can implement meaningful climate solutions, the better off we will all be.
I believe the following solutions would make the climate debate more successful.
Adopt a “1,000 solutions model.” We cannot rely on a once-in-a-lifetime legislative package to solve all of our climate change problems and, even if Build Back Better Act passes, the federal government will still need additional legislation to reach a net zero economy by mid-century. Given the makeup of Congress and Administration, climate policy arguably covers all committees of jurisdiction and agencies. If we celebrate each agency and committee’s initiative to move “smaller” policies, we should ultimately see greater movement tackling growing greenhouse gas emissions and buy-in from various committees that have not traditionally led on this issue.
Celebrate the growing bipartisan movement. Policies like natural infrastructure have champions on both sides of the aisle, as evidenced by inclusion of western water, reforestation, and ecosystem restoration policies in the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Celebrating these wins and continuing to build on what comes next will go a long way in bringing more policymakers to the table and finding areas where Democrats and Republicans can work together on climate policy.
Message around the impacts of climate change, not just the solutions. At this point, nearly every person in the U.S. has experienced the impacts of climate change. However, it is not always clear for many Americans how climate change is connected to these weather events. Educating mountain bike riders, for example, on how climate-induced beetle infestation will impact the forests where they ride could better connect the dots on why action is needed. Highlighting specific examples followed by legislative solutions could bring more lawmakers and constituents into climate policy discussions.
Amplify corporate voices focused on sustainability. In a somewhat remarkable 180, companies are now highlighting sustainability credentials to bring in new customers and leading the way on clean technological investment to reach their net zero emissions goals. Agencies should be partnering with companies to scale net zero emissions technologies and lawmakers should be elevating corporate leaders that can authentically show how reducing emissions helps their bottom line.

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