In what they dubbed a “national day of climate action,” some five-dozen climate activists gathered outside Representative Antonio Delgado’s Kingston office to call on him to be a strong advocate for climate action in the nation’s capital. In ten or more simultaneous events around New York state, similar rallies implored lawmakers to “seal the deal” and pass the $3.5 trillion reconciliation budget bill without watering it down before it comes up for a vote in the fall.
The U.S. Senate has passed a bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure bill that did not address climate change. Demonstrators’ focus was on the larger reconciliation bill which includes $198 billion to establish a “Clean Electricity Payment Program” and ambitious carbon reduction targets, as well as expanding Medicare, child care and education.
The reconciliation bill has no Republican support and can be passed by with a simple majority but that means every Democrat in the Senate and almost every Dem in the House will need to be on board. While the activists were not afraid that Delgado would vote against the bill, there are at least six Democrats wavering. That’s why people like Bob Cohen, of Citizen Action of New York, says Delgado has to get off the sidelines and become an aggressive champion for the bill.
Cohen wants to see a network of electric car charging stations and electric school buses, infrastructure that will help New York state limit greenhouse gas emissions to 85% of 1990 levels by 2050, a goal the state legislature set in 2019 that will be impossible without federal funding but that will benefit Delgado’s rural, agricultural district. Cohen urged the climate coalition to fight for the other essential elements of the reconciliation bill —health care, jobs, housing. “We can’t be part of the ‘Hunger Games’ that happens in Congress.”
A cross-section of climate activists raised their voices. Amy Kletter of Ulster Activists emphasized the urgency of climate action in the wake of the recent report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “The time for parsing is done. Our lives depend on it.”
Emily Skydel, Hudson Valley organizer for Food and Water Watch, decried the ongoing government subsidies to fossil fuel companies and the plan to replace the gas-burning Danskammer power plant near Newburgh with another natural gas powered one. Betta Broad of New Yorkers for Clean Power called for the construction of energy-efficient homes to address the housing shortage while converting to sustainable heating and cooling methods.
Rally organizers like Jess Mullen and Janet Appuzzo also feared that moderate Democrats like Delgado, their representative in Congress, would cave in to pressure to dilute elements of the reconciliation proposal they feel are essential to the survival of the planet.
“Climate change is widespread, rapid, and intensifying, and some trends are now irreversible, at least during the present time frame,” said Appuzzo. “We have no time to lose and one of our tools is legislation. We came to Delgado’s office today to show that we care intensely, to show that it is essential we pass a very strong infrastructure bill that supports real financial support for climate, care, jobs and justice initiatives.”
The rally ended as all rallies must. With pizza and some rousing cheers: “Hey, ho, fossil fuels have got to go!”; “Time to get real…and seal the deal!”; and “When our planet is under attack, what do we do? Stand up. Fight back!” And a final message for Representative Antonio Delgado: “We’re watching you.”