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  1. Opinion

Solving the climate crisis is within our reach | Column

Rep. Kathy Castor explains her climate action plan, which will be unveiled Tuesday.

Where do you look for hope and vision when America is in the grips of a public health crisis, economic turmoil, and systemic racism? Taken together, we face historic and painful challenges. It is precisely because we find ourselves in this unprecedented moment that we must continue to ring the alarm on another life-or-death threat facing America: our dangerously changing climate.

Rep. Kathy Castor speaks with members of the Tampa Bay Times editorial board last fall. [CHRIS URSO | Times]

The challenges we face as a nation are daunting, but we have the power to fix them. That’s why on Tuesday I am releasing Solving the Climate Crisis: The Congressional Action Plan for a Clean Energy Economy and a Healthy, Resilient and Just America. It’s an ambitious climate action plan to build the clean energy economy and strengthen communities to handle the costly impacts of the warming planet.

For the past year and a half, I’ve led an effort in the U.S. House of Representatives to find innovative, effective solutions to tackle the climate crisis. I’ve listened to scientists, who tell us that the past five years have been the hottest on record and that climate-fueled disasters will continue to worsen. Activists and advocates from every corner of the country have shared how vulnerable communities are disproportionately exposed to pollution due to a legacy of environmental injustice. This discrimination also set the table for COVID-19 to claim a disparate number of Black and brown lives.

I have heard young activists call for climate action during Fridays for Future. And I have listened intently to the young leaders like Greta Thunberg, Chris Suggs and Jamie Margolin, who testified before my committee to say the time to act is now. Scientists, farmers, entrepreneurs, doctors, nurses, military, tribal leaders, economists - all have weighed in to challenge us to solve the climate crisis with courageous action that advances social justice, rebuilds our reeling economy with family-sustaining jobs and strengthens the safeguards that keep our children and families healthy.

I’m grateful to local leaders across America who have shared their ideas and wisdom, from our beautiful Florida to the Lowcountry of South Carolina to the mountains of Colorado and indigenous tribes of Alaska. We have listened - and now it is our turn to act. In fact, Solving the Climate Crisis references existing legislation from over one hundred lawmakers. We are ready to get to work. Just this week, the House will pass an infrastructure bill that contains many of those good ideas – to build the clean energy economy and make our communities more resilient with jobs tied to fair labor standards and good wages.

America’s goal must be 100 percent clean energy as soon as possible. The cars we drive, the buses our kids ride to school, our homes, our workplaces – they will all be powered by clean, renewable sources that create and sustain well-paying American jobs. Greater energy efficiency will put money back into wallets at a time when we need it. And we will rebuild healthier with less pollution especially for vulnerable neighbors hit hard by the climate crisis. It’s an exciting opportunity to rebuild better at this difficult moment in time.

Our plan would set the country on a path to achieving net-zero carbon pollution by 2050, if not earlier, taking bold steps to grow our economy, safeguard our families’ health, make our communities more resilient and protect our land and water. It calls on Congress to support rapid deployment of wind, solar, energy efficiency, and other zero-carbon energy sources; prioritize environmental justice and invest in clean infrastructure for communities of color and low-income communities; and launch a National Climate Adaptation Program. We also urge our colleagues in Congress to protect at least 30 percent of all U.S. lands and ocean areas by 2030, as well as limit new leasing for fossil fuel extraction on public lands onshore and offshore, including in the Gulf Coast.

Americans are awakened to the human toll of past inaction, as we deal with systemic racism and a global pandemic. But as we respond to these crises with real solutions, we can chart a more sustainable way forward by mobilizing together for change. I am proud to lead House Democrats in meeting this moment, with a plan to rebuild a stronger, healthier and fairer America for the people.

Rep. Kathy Castor, a Democrat, chairs the U.S. House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. She is a native Floridian and has represented Florida’s 14th congressional district since 2007.

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