U.S. Climate Policy: A Closing Window of Opportunity for the Senate

This week, the United States Senate comes back to work to finish up the year with self-imposed lowered expectations. Although the House of Representatives passed a historic bill last year, that same bill is still stalling in the Senate. The passage of important climate change legislation is seen as too difficult because of partisan politics and upcoming elections, yet some senators are still talking about finding ways to handcuff the Environmental Protection Agency and prevent it from addressing climate change. This is amazing logic – Congress won’t act to fix the problem, so they want to make sure nobody else can either?

Climate change is real and is happening right now – not just in drought-stricken Africa or disappearing islands in the Pacific, but also here in the United States. Like most problems, we can either tackle it head-on, or just keep ignoring it and deal with the problem once it’s much worse and harder to fix. What’s ironic is that a major reason given for inaction is that the economy is too weak. Too weak for a change that will create a new, green economic path and thousands of new jobs?

As November’s congressional elections bring in new members, maybe it’s time for the departing members to ask themselves what legacy they want to leave behind. Do they want to be remembered as obstructionists looking to please a small group of powerful interests, or as champions of progressive legislation that will fundamentally change our country – and planet – for the better?

Congress still has the opportunity to do something really great. A legacy is there for the taking.

Manuel Oliva is CI’s director of U.S. policy.

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