Philadelphia only needs to look at the events of the past few weeks to see the damage climate change is already wreaking havoc on our neighborhoods.
In recent months, Hurricanes Ida and Isaias have forced residents out of their homes in neighborhoods like Eastwick, damaging shops and submerging some of our high profile streets – even the Vine Street Expressway.
The science is clear: unless our nation takes the necessary steps soon to contain harmful carbon pollution, we will be embroiled in an irreversible downward spiral of catastrophic events that will threaten all of our communities.
Like the devastation caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this impact will disproportionately fall on black and brown families who have fewer financial resources and are more likely to live in neighborhoods more prone to flooding and rising temperatures and less likely to have enough green infrastructure .
Here in Philadelphia, we have taken the lead as a model of how local governments can address this growing threat.
In recent years we have invested in our rainwater infrastructure as part of the state-recognized initiative “Green City Clean Waters” in order to reduce the pollution of our aging sewage system. We are committed to buying more green, renewable energy. And we’ve worked to develop policies and programs that address our largest source of carbon emissions, the built environment.
But the extent of the problem is so massive that we can only counter it if the federal government is willing to work with us.
Fortunately, President Biden has released a groundbreaking $ 3.5 trillion Build Back Better plan that focuses on the fight against climate change.
Build Back Better would fundamentally restructure our economy and reduce our emissions by investing billions of dollars in clean, sustainable industries: expanding renewable energies, installing charging infrastructure for electric vehicles, and reducing emissions from existing industries.
At the same time, it would address a variety of other environmental threats plaguing our city, from toxic schools threatening the health of our children and teachers to running water pipes.
At its core, Build Back Better is one of the largest investments in family-friendly union jobs in our country’s history. He recognizes that fighting climate change and other environmental threats is a historic opportunity to empower unions while promoting a clean energy economy.
It would make people want a 21st century power grid.
And it would get even more people to grapple with other environmental threats, from replacing lead water pipes that threaten our children’s development to cleaning up contaminated Superfund sites that are affecting lower-income communities.
However, this agenda, at the heart of President Biden’s first term, is currently being jeopardized by some Congressmen who are trying to delay its passage and reduce the overall amount of funding it contains, saying that wealthy individuals and multinational corporations will benefit from the Benefiting from the Trump Tax Freebies shouldn’t have to bear their fair share of the burden of providing critical government services.
Not only are the components of the Build Back Better plan hugely popular with the American public, they’re also essential to putting our economy on a more sustainable footing by investing in local communities and finally addressing a long legacy of failed economic policies, the multiple Generations have been fueled by poverty in too many black and brown neighborhoods in Philadelphia.
Philadelphia’s own Congressmen, Dwight Evans and Brendan Boyle, sit on the powerful Ways and Means Committee, which is tasked with drafting key parts of the final bill and will play a critical role in drafting a final legislative package.
It is time to meet this historic moment with actions that will transform our nation by investing in our people to save the planet.
Katherine Gilmore Richardson chairs the City Council’s Environment Committee.