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Introducing the Climate Politics Almanac
An ongoing Hill Heat series
Against the distressing backdrop of climate-change-denying, right-wing authoritarian governments taking power around the world, from Donald Trump to Viktor Orban to Jair Bolsonaro to Narendra Modi, an ascendant movement in the United States coalesced around the goal of defeating Trump and pushing Democratic leadership in Washington to embrace a Green New Deal.
In a refreshing contrast from 2009—when Democrats last controlled a governing trifecta in Washington and the (white, professional-class, business-friendly) climate movement seemed to stake its success on a single failed bill—the Green New Deal is not a single policy or piece of legislation, but a proposal for wholesale socioeconomic transformation that will necessarily unfold over years of political struggle.
Here on the Hill, President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda has stalled, with many critical components for addressing the climate crisis stripped out at the insistence of a West Virginia coal investor. But the Green New Deal was never going to be achieved through any single bill. And regardless whether Democrats lose control of one or both houses of Congress next year (as appears likely), the work to advance Green New Deal-inspired policies surrounding housing, transportation, schools, agriculture, worker security, a just transition, environmental cleanup, and beyond can and must continue at the state and local level.
2020 drove home the catastrophic damage that climate pollution is causing, while also offering a glimpse into the economic and systemic disruption that an unmanaged collapse of the fossil fuel industry can cause. As a consequence, climate is now deeply intertwined with legal, economic, and legislative fights that it had historically been absent from. For example, President Biden’s choice over who to nominate as Federal Reserve Chair has suddenly found climate at the very heart of the decision-making process. Seemingly obscure elected officials from very different geographies and political orientations, such as the Insurance Commissioners in California and Louisiana, are now finding that dealing with climate change is one of their core responsibilities.
Going forward, all politics will be climate politics. As the climate crisis intensifies, movements for climate resilience and a just transition will become more integral to economic policymaking. Reactionary movements of ethnic nationalism and lifeboat ethics will fuel conservative politics. Winning a Green New Deal will require state and local leaders to step up to the plate when Washington fails, and the younger generation of progressives in Congress will need to find new and creative ways to wield power.
The United States Climate Politics Almanac will give a thorough overview of the climate and political landscape in each state, and key developments and Hill happenings that are shaping climate policy in sometimes unexpected ways. The twists and turns of 2021 recently culminated in the headline electoral event of the year: the Virginia gubernatorial and legislative elections, which will lead to the inauguration of a new state government there beginning in January.
Accordingly, our Almanac will first explore the politics of the Old Dominion, more formally known as the Commonwealth of Virginia. To make sure the Almanac lands in your mailbox: