Stimulus Package Passes Senate With Major Green Groups’ Support

Senate Majority Leader McConnell Signals It Passed        Photo: Andrew Harnik, AP

The $2 trillion stimulus package the Senate passed unanimously late last night contained neither the funding the President sought to fill up the tank on the Strategic Petroleum Reserve nor the provisions that would have required the airline industry to become more sustainable in exchange for large grants.  As a result of this “draw” with the fossil fuel and airline industries, the leaders of both the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council issued statements expressing their support for the bill, citing its relief to workers, but also signaling a desire that further stimulus packages result in a more sustainable economy and a cleaner energy future.

Why This Matters:  The most important thing, in the end, was the aid that workers, small businesses, hospitals, and state and local governments so direly needed at this moment.  The fact that some of the green provisions were included in the conversation about this bill was a sign that the message about sustainability is breaking through.  Now was not the time to fight to the death for them. The leaders of the major green groups recognized that on greening the stimulus, a draw was good enough. But the fight must go on.

Europeans Debating Greening Their Stimulus Packages To Meet Paris Agreement

Reuters reported that a number of European countries recognize that they will need an economic stimulus package like the one making its way through Congress in the U.S., but are looking to make them count toward their billions they have promised to reduce carbon emissions as part of the Paris Accord.  Even the countries with traditionally tight government spending like Germany see the benefit of using this moment when the fiscal spigot is open to fund projects such as renewable energy and public transportation.  On Tuesday, even the conservative government in the U.K. “urged governments to ‘look to green stimulus.'”  Until now, European governments had been reluctant to issue bonds to pay for climate projects (i.e. “green debt”) but now, according to the Reuters story, “Germany plans to issue a green bond in the second half of 2020 as does Italy; other candidates are Spain, Sweden, Denmark, and Britain.”

Will It Finally Be Infrastructure Week When Stimulus 4 Rolls Around?

The U.S. financial markets may also be signaling it is time for “green infrastructure” spending in the next recovery package Congress takes up — so the environmental groups may have some allies when the battle resumes. In a commentary piece in Barron’s on Tuesday, two venture capitalists argued that the coronavirus has exposed the extent to which local governments are now on the front lines of American life.  And municipalities need a significant federal shot in the arm.  The authors point out that “[f]or the same price as the proposed support for the airline industry ($50 billion), about 85% of the nation’s sewage overflow problem could be eliminated. That would improve drinking water, public safety, property values, fishing and recreational economies, and environmental quality for the residents of 32 states.”  And they argue that with interest rates so low, now is the time for state and local governments to borrow from the federal government to make these green infrastructure investments.

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