Environmental advocate frustrated with scaled-down plan to address climate change

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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – A national plan to deal with climate change is being scaled back to the frustration of environmental groups that keep that warning we’re running out of time.

“We’re in a coastal area, so we’re at the front lines of climate change,” says Karen Grainey from the Center for a Sustainable Coast.

“There are a lot of communities already dealing with flooding issues from sea level rise, and that’s only going to get worse,” said Grainey. “And here in Savannah, we all know we’re not that high above sea level and a lot of our communities are already seeing it and they’re already dealing with sea-level rise.”

Now the national legislative plan, which includes a climate change package, has been scaled back. President Joe Biden has announced a framework that includes a massive spending initiatives plan, but no longer includes a program for electricity providers.

“And one of the casualties of that cutting back was the ‘Clean Electricity Performance Program’ which was really the backbone of (Biden’s) climate plan,” Grainey explained. “It addresses the emissions coming from our electricity sector.”

The plan would have provided an incentive to electricity providers to increase their clean electricity sources by 4 percent a year. Grainey says there was also a provision that would have penalized companies that did not meet the target.

“That would have gotten us to the goal of 100 percent clean emissions by 2035, which was the best element of the program, and it was Biden’s goal,” said Grainey. “But he was forced by politics to take the best element of the program out — the thing that would really make the difference.”

Grainey blamed West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat, for nixing the electricity provider program by making it clear he wouldn’t vote for it.

The Biden administration says what is left is still the largest investment the U.S. has ever made in climate change. It’s a $550 billion package of investments and tax credits for utilities and even for individuals (to buy electric cars for example) along with a push for more clean energy technology. It even includes money to assist communities that are having to adapt to the realities of fires and flooding because of climate change.

While Grainey acknowledges that’s a lot of money. she says dealing with the repercussions of climate change can cost a lot more.

“What’s there now are all good programs and they’re all worth doing but they won’t be enough to get emissions down to where they need to be quickly enough,” she said.

Grainey said: “If the world’s governments, including the United States, don’t take drastic action to reduce emissions, huge numbers of people can suffer and die as a consequence.”

She says the U.S. is already seeing consequences in terms of flooding, even during rain storms, not hurricanes, along with fires and other huge-scale events.

Without changes in strategy, Grainey says more people will be displaced by climate change.

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