Authors: Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins
After health care, the battle turns to climate change.
Today President Obama signed health care reform into law.
This is an incredible victory not just for the President and members of Congress who championed the legislation; not just for the movement of people and organizations who advocated for change; not just for the millions of Americans who will soon have affordable health coverage when before they had none; but also for our country.
Today America takes a giant step towards the dream of being a land of opportunity for all. Today, we deserve to celebrate.
Unfortunately though, I've got some bad news for my friends who have worked so tirelessly for this moment. There is no time to rest. You may all need a vacation right now, but we can't afford that.
Our job of building a stronger, more just America is only getting started. We've got to build on this momentum and press on towards the next critical issue that threatens our nation's health and well-being.
That next issue is the economy and unemployment, which leaves millions of Americans without the opportunity to work, without the means to support themselves and their families.
And the solution is comprehensive climate and energy legislation.
A climate bill? To fix the economy? Yes. Because the route to ending the climate crisis is to transition America from dirty, polluting power sources to clean energy sources like the wind and sun. And this transition will create hundreds of thousands of American jobs. It will provide us the opportunity to be productive again as a nation.
President Obama himself said, "This is a jobs bill," of the climate and energy bill that the House passed in June of 2009, the American Clean Energy and Security Act.
It's been almost a year since the House acted, and now it's up to the Senate to lead on a climate and energy bill. The Senate's job isn't over with the passage of health care. Our planet is in peril from devastating climate change; our economy is still weak, and millions of Americans still need access to decent work. We expect the Senate to take on these issues now, and to enact solutions as quickly as possible.
Senators Kerry, Graham, and Lieberman have been leading a bipartisan process to craft a Senate climate bill. This process is encouraging, but it will ultimately be judged on the outcomes it yields for working people and for our planet. It must boldly address the threats of global climate change and pave the way for an inclusive green economy that lifts people out of poverty
A strong climate and energy bill must aggressively reduce America's carbon pollution and invest in an inclusive green economy, built on clean energy jobs. In particular, there are two critical provisions that we feel are crucial to any effective Senate legislation. Green For All and a coalition of civil rights, faith, labor, environmental, and community groups fought for and won these provisions in the House version of climate legislation last summer.
1. $860 million allocated to the Green Jobs Act. This measure would provide training to workers who need new skills for the jobs that will repower and rebuild America. For many in desperate need of work, enrolling in Green Jobs Act programs would be the ﬁrst step out of poverty.
2. Local access to quality jobs, through the creation of a green construction careers demonstration program. This program would promote middle-class careers and quality employment practices in the green construction sector. It would empower the Secretaries of Labor and Energy to ensure that these green construction jobs are good jobs, and are accessible to low-income communities and local workers.
These two provisions are essential in ensuring that building a clean energy economy also creates good jobs for communities in need.
Changing our country, reforming our laws, bringing opportunity, power, and resources to those without: this is grueling work. The battle for health care reform showed us as much.
We can be proud of the enormous impact the health care bill will have. And we must draw strength from this victory. Because the hard part is just getting started, and there is work to be done.