Yesterday, President Biden issued a series of executive orders (EOs) to put the U.S. on the path to tackling the urgent climate and economic crises. He rightly outlined how tackling climate would create good-paying union jobs that provide more pathways to the middle class.
But he realizes that there are challenges to this transition. First, we cannot forget about communities where fossil fuel plants served as an economic foundation for many families and the tax base for municipalities. Second, we must use the transition to correct the injustices that many minorities and poor families suffered due to the pollution from those plants.
His EOs provide the framework for our country’s leaders, philanthropic community and private sector to build on. He created:
- the Domestic Climate Policy Office (CGC’s Jahi Wise is now a member),
- a new National Climate Change Task Force,
- a Civilian Climate Corps,
- the Justice40 Initiative,
- a new Interagency Working Group on Coal,
- Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization, and
- a new White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council.
This creates the government infrastructure needed to make climate-focused decisions, prioritize needy populations, and enforce laws and administration priorities.
But for him to realize these goals and literally build a cleaner, better and more just future the missing ingredient is money. This powerful new climate-oriented government architecture needs trillions of dollars to put to work.
The president knows this. In his campaign climate plan, he included an “innovative financing mechanisms that leverage private sector dollars to maximize investment in the clean energy revolution.”
That’s where the Clean Energy Accelerator comes in.
Based on the proven green bank model that has been tested and put to work in more than a dozen states, Biden can combine public dollars with private dollars at a 1:3 ratio and cover nearly a quarter of the capital needed in his $2T climate plan.
The Accelerator will take the orders from framework to implementation. The Accelerator will be required to invest 40% of its capital in disadvantaged communities, exactly in line with the President’s target. This will reduce pollution, lower energy costs and create new jobs and businesses for those communities who are otherwise left out of the economic gains from the clean energy transition. (Our white paper provides a full analysis of how the Accelerator can help achieve environmental justice.) And the Accelerator will also be directed to invest in communities impacted by the climate transition to create new, good-paying jobs to replace those lost.
And it can help those who want and deserve to stay in their communities. As Biden’s national climate adviser Gina McCarthy said, “We’re not going to ask people to go from the middle of Ohio or Pennsylvania to ship out to the coast to have solar jobs.” The Accelerator is specifically empowered to make targeted investments, either directly or through a new network of state or local green banks. Money will flow where and how it is needed to meet the specific needs of each state and community.
In Michigan, the state’s green bank has launched a new program to help low-income seniors in Ann Arbor.
“The program will go toward making physical improvements in low-income senior homes and to supporting social workers with providing the supporting services necessary to help seniors stay in their homes longer.”
Making those improvements for low-to-moderate income families requires skills of all types. In fact, as this report shows, roughly half of the jobs created will be in non-technical roles.
While the private sector has stepped up its investment in green technologies, it’s nowhere near the level and speed that is needed. As we told the Washington Post this week, ““It’s not that private banks have never heard of solar or electric vehicles … It’s just that the speed of that private investment is far too slow.”
As the Administration and Congress look for economic recovery measures, creating a Clean Energy Accelerator like the one the House passed twice last year and that Vice President Kamala Harris sponsored when she was a senator can make the goals of the President’s executive orders achievable.