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Another round of potentially devastating storms is sweeping southeastern states as wildfires wreak havoc on the west coast—in the middle of a pandemic. Throughout the summer, deadly climate events have forced hundreds of families across the country to evacuate their homes, many already out of work or facing evictions due to the coronavirus pandemic. If there were ever a time for serious action on climate change, it is now.

Unfortunately, the current administration’s response to one existential crisis (COVID-19) has simply fueled another one: climate change. Recent scientific studies have shown that we’re hurtling toward the climate “cliff edge” more suddenly than expected. Without a plan to recover from the pandemic that centers climate justice, we’re poised to sail right off that cliff. 

This spring, we poured trillions of public dollars into the economy in an initial attempt to mitigate the economic impact of COVID-19. Amidst this convergence of climate breakdown and COVID-19 chaos, however, not a single federal stimulus dollar went toward protecting our climate, as Rhiana Gunn-Wright pointed out in the New York Times. In fact, billions of public dollars flowed directly to Big Oil, even as many working families have yet to receive their unemployment benefits.

There’s simply no counting on corporate CEOs or the free market to protect our planet. But our continued reliance on milquetoast policy won’t cut it either. We know that austerity in the face of a crisis is lethal. But not all public investments are created equal either. What we need are deep public investments in climate infrastructure that center working people and communities of color who are already on the frontlines of both the pandemic and climate change. Instead of continuing to spend ten times as much on subsidies for the fossil fuel industry as we do on public education, we must demand that our public dollars contribute to building a clean, equitable, and regenerative economy. Instead of fighting over minimum standards for the corporations receiving our public dollars, we need to embrace a new spending paradigm: one where we make sure our public goods do the most public good.

This Climate Week, we are working to turn the tide on an economy that puts profit over people and the planet. To make that happen, we must make sure that every single public dollar invested in the economy aids in the creation of millions of good jobs and in the building of climate-safe communities. At the onset of the pandemic, over 100,000 clean energy workers lost their jobs. Through widespread adoption of policies like the U.S. Employment Plan, our good jobs and equity tool that is already used by cities and states around the country, we can create even more clean jobs than we’ve lost. Our ability to rebuild after recent hurricanes and this pandemic depends on it.

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