Timeline: How We Won Historic Climate Legislation

“Twelve years ago we couldn’t do it. Today we did. We owe that to the movement, who organized, not agonized and never gave up. The Senate has finally passed important climate and environmental justice legislation. And we’re not stopping here.” – U.S. Senator Ed Markey, on Twitter, August 7, 2022 

 

Our nation just made truly historic progress to protect people and the planet.

The Inflation Reduction Act, passed in the Senate on August 7 and in the House on August 15, is by far the most important action Congress has ever taken to address climate change. President Biden signed this monumental bill into law today.

While this bill has downsides — including provisions that could harm communities near fossil fuel leasing and infrastructure, which we will continue to fight against — it will invest nearly $370 billion in clean energy, energy security, and environmental justice. And it will put our country on a path to reduce carbon emissions by roughly 40% by 2030, giving humanity a real chance to avoid climate catastrophe and create a more sustainable world.

This victory follows more than a decade of LCV’s work to organize, hold leaders accountable, and elect hundreds of environmental champions at all levels of government. This includes, for the last 18 months, a nationwide advocacy and organizing campaign — unmatched in LCV’s 50-year history — to pass climate action in Congress.

Below is a timeline of how this historic climate victory was won:

2009-2010. Hope and Disappointment. LCV is instrumental in passing The American Clean Energy and Security Act (aka the “Waxman-Markey” bill) in the U.S. House to establish binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions, yet the bill dies in the Senate at the hands of polluters. We learn an important lesson: we must organize at the grassroots level and make climate action a priority issue for the public and elected leaders alike.

2010. A New Electoral Force and National Investment in a Critical State Victory.

We expand our work to help elect climate leaders by launching LCV Victory Fund, a superPAC. (Earlier in the 2010 election cycle, we also launched an online donation platform, GiveGreen, to direct support to pro-environment candidates’ campaigns.) LCV and our 30+ state partners across the country have become a unified and powerful force for environmental progress, and in a show of strength at the ballot box, LCV helps our California affiliate resoundingly defeat Big Oil-backed Proposition 23. This victory — the largest public referendum on climate policy in the nation’s history to date, and the top priority for the environmental agenda — helps protect California’s landmark air pollution standards and clean energy industry, and demonstrates the effectiveness of LCV’s joint national and state efforts.

 

2011-2012. Hard-Hitting Ads to Hold Climate Deniers Accountable, and More Electoral Wins.

Faced with an environmentally hostile, Tea Party-influenced Congress, we launch hard-hitting media campaigns to educate constituents about the records of lawmakers who deny climate change, prioritize polluters, and block environmental progress. In 2012, we help elect six new pro-environment U.S. senators and defeat 11 of the worst anti-environment candidates targeted by our Dirty Dozen program. Our state affiliates help pass 12 environmental ballot measures, establish pro-environment legislatures in six states, and elect two green governors.

2013-2014. Building Grassroots Power to Shift the Politics of Climate Change. We build a powerful volunteer organizing infrastructure in seven states to demand climate action and increase public pressure to make climate denial a politically toxic position for elected officials. LCV also launches Climate Champions, a program that publicly supports allies in Congress who stand up for climate action. The response from leaders is overwhelmingly positive and encourages even more champions to speak out forcefully on the urgent need for climate action.

2015. Winning the Politics of Clean Energy. President Obama’s veto of congressional legislation to force approval of the Keystone XL pipeline shows the growing power of the environmental movement. LCV’s state affiliates help defeat polluter-led attacks on renewable energy standards in multiple states and win the nation’s first major limits on methane emissions in the oil and gas sector in Colorado.

2016. Reversal and Resistance.

The election of Donald Trump puts the White House and both chambers of Congress in anti-environment hands, leaving LCV and our state affiliates devastated but undeterred. As the impacts of climate change increasingly affect people across the country, we double down on organizing the public to demand action, embarking on a four-year strategy to advance state and local progress, build a more powerful and racially inclusive movement, and elect pro-climate leaders. LCV also releases our first-ever Scorecard Report on Congressional Caucuses of Color, highlighting the strong environmental leadership of the Asian Pacific American, Black, and Hispanic Caucuses and the value of diverse representation in Congress.

2017. Movement Building.

LCV and our 30+ state affiliates in the Conservation Voter Movement (CVM) make a formal agreement to more closely align our issue work across the country. A pilot program launched by our New Jersey affiliate makes climate action a priority issue in the state’s governor’s race. This program serves as a model for the CVM’s Clean Energy for All (CEFA) campaign, which launches the following year and pushes for state and local action to shift the U.S. to an equitable clean energy future.

2018. Nationwide Clean Energy Campaign.

Momentum for clean energy grows at the state and local level, and progress on issues like electric buses for school children, led by LCV’s Chispa program, demonstrate that the shift to clean energy is both popular and feasible. Our state affiliates secure commitments to 100% clean energy from more than 600 winning elected officials at every level of government, including nine new governors. LCV Victory Fund and affiliated entities make the largest investment of any single-issue group in this election cycle, helping to send 60 diverse new leaders to Congress and flip the U.S. House to a pro-environment majority.

2019. Progress and Partnerships.

Following the election of a pro-environment U.S. House and 300 state and local leaders, we win new progress by pushing elected leaders to prioritize climate. Eight more governors join the U.S. Climate Alliance, and states see the most productive legislative sessions for clean energy and climate action in history, resulting in 1 in 4 people in the U.S. living in places committed to clean energy. (Today, in 2022, this number is more than 4 in 10 people.) We build new partnerships with the labor movement and work with environmental justice groups to develop the Equitable & Just National Climate Platform, which identifies ways for policymakers to address the climate crisis while confronting racial, economic, and environmental injustices.

2020. Securing a Federal Pro-Climate Trifecta.

In a year like no other, LCV’s Change the Climate 2020 campaign pushes every Democratic presidential primary candidate to make climate change a priority from day one of their administration. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris campaign on the most ambitious plan for climate action and environmental justice of any presidential ticket to date. LCV Victory Fund turns out voters in key races, helping to hold the House, flip the Senate, and win the White House, ushering in a trifecta of pro-climate federal leadership.

2021. Climate Action Now.

With pro-climate leadership in the House and Senate, LCV and our 30+ state affiliates work to keep climate and environmental justice at the center of the agenda for legislators and the public. With labor, environmental justice partners, and other allies, we launch our largest-ever federal advocacy campaign to demonstrate visible support for climate action in the home states and districts of key members of Congress. Over 18 months, we knock on 575,000 doors, engage 27,000 businesses, garner 300+ news and opinion pieces, run hundreds of TV and digital ads, and hold 400 events with federal and local leaders to demand climate action now.

2022. Breakthrough Legislation.

After the House passes investments in climate, justice, and jobs in late 2021, we receive consistent feedback that our public education and advocacy campaign has made an impact on Members of Congress. Through multiple failed attempts to reach a deal, we never let up pressure and successfully keep climate investments at the center of the final bill — while putting lawmakers on notice that we will score this vote in our National Environmental Scorecard. The Senate passes historic legislation by a vote of 50-50 (plus Vice President Harris’ tie-breaking vote) and the House by 220-207. President Biden signed the bill into law on August 16, 2022.

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It’s been a long road to arrive at the passage of this bill that our planet and communities desperately need. For at least 15 years, LCV has been working to press leaders to take bold action on the existential crisis of climate change. We’ve won action from presidential administrations, from state and local governments, and at the ballot box. Yet we have always known that to fully address climate change at the necessary scale and pace, we must win meaningful legislation in Congress. With your support, we did.

Still, there is more to do.

While the Inflation Reduction Act is critical to reaching our climate goals, it also includes potentially detrimental provisions designed to benefit the still-too-powerful fossil fuel industry, which could have particularly harmful impacts on Indigenous communities, communities of color, and other communities on the frontlines of fossil fuel extraction. Just as LCV is committed to building the clean energy future that this historic bill makes possible, we are committed to pushing back on more leasing, drilling, pipelines, and other measures that perpetuate environmental racism and fuel the climate crisis. With your continued support, we will continue this critical fight.

Thank you for investing in LCV’s long-term work to secure policies to build a safer, more equitable climate future for people and the planet. This bill is a beginning, not an end. We have much more to do, and — as this journey shows — together, we will get it done. 

To view a breakdown of how the climate and clean energy provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act measure up to LCV’s priorities, click here.

 

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