Oped by State Rep. Park Cannon GA – First Published in the Albany Herald

November 2022

Throughout the unfolding tragedy in Ukraine, President Biden has exhibited unwavering leadership, skillful diplomacy, concise plans based on expert opinions, and clear communication with the public. In short, he has affirmed strong, capable U.S. leadership. Now we must realize the opportunities presented by a clean energy economy, not only to abate the worst of the climate crisis, but also to prevent autocratic nations from leveraging their oil and gas exports over peaceful democracies.

The situation in Ukraine has brought into sharp focus how the world’s continued fossil fuel dependency threatens sovereign democratic nations. While the world’s democracies united with many financial sanctions, they could not unite against fossil fuel imports. Sanctions are harder to put in place because Europe, on average, relies on Russian fossil fuel exports for 40 percent of their natural gas.

Our reliance on fossil fuels presents more than just a diplomatic threat. Because fossil fuels are a root cause of climate change, we face multiple interconnected existential crises that threaten our shared humanity, national security and planet. The most recent United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report said we must cut carbon pollution from burning fossil fuels in half by 2030 to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

The devastating report made it clear that the world lags behind that goal. Simply put, nations are not doing enough to bolster a clean energy economy that would reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and bring environmental justice to economically depressed communities that need it the most. The “atlas” of climate disasters included in the report exhibits how mass migration will soon become the norm if we fail to act.

For decades systemic environmental racism has suppressed and bullied black and brown people — from red-lining to the placement of industrial sites in our backyards. Around the world, this story has been repeated in multiple ways. We can lead the way to environmental justice and equality by taking bold climate action here at home.

To meet these challenges, we need bold and immediate federal action. Late last year, the U.S. House of Representatives voted in favor of $550 billion in investments to address the climate crisis. These investments combine concrete actions to mitigate against climate change, support energy security, rebuild our economy, and advance environmental justice — while paving the way for good-paying union jobs.

Now, it’s imperative that the Senate follows suit. Senators Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock understand the dire risks associated with climate change. It’s time for the full Senate to embrace this reality and take action.

Investing in people to improve their lives and livelihoods is always the right thing to do. As Franklin D. Roosevelt proved with the New Deal, it grows the economy. Clean energy is the biggest job creator in our country’s energy sector, employing almost three times as many workers as the fossil fuel industry.

These investments would create a Civilian Climate Corps, building on FDR’s program that gave dignity back to hundreds of thousands during the Depression. The CCC can help right the injustices of the past by creating good-paying jobs for those who are hardest hit by environmental racism. It would train hundreds of thousands to build healthy and safe communities that are resilient to storms and floods, expand access to renewable energy, weatherize buildings, and install electric vehicle charging stations. These investments also connect the dots between inequity, environment, and the economy to ensure no one is left behind on the path to a greener, more sustainable future.

The clean energy provisions in the package passed by the House would help us grow our clean energy economy — adding millions of jobs, including more than 556,000 manufacturing jobs and more than 312,000 construction jobs annually. According to the Clean Jobs America 2021 report, 71,111 people worked in Georgia’s clean energy sector in 2020, a 9.9 percent growth from 2018 to 2020. These investments would stimulate that growth, adding nearly 110,000 new jobs in Georgia over the next five years.

These investments signal the hopeful promise of a more inclusive America, one where one’s zip code doesn’t predetermine his or her future. I urge Congress to pass bold climate provisions to accelerate the world’s transition to a clean energy economy that will help secure the freedom of billions and unite us in a common goal of justice for all.