What Could We Do with $120 Billion to Protect the Ocean and Fight Climate Change?

The power of making smart investments

There certainly isn’t a shortage of grim news lately. And, the recent report from the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is no exception.

The IPCC tells us that this is the decade when we must take action on climate change to avoid the worst- case scenarios. If we fail, it could be impossible to keep average global temperatures from rising well above 1.5 degrees Celsius. Rare, extreme weather events will become increasingly common at 1.5 degrees of warming, with the intensity and frequency of heatwaves, heavy precipitation and droughts escalating with every half degree beyond that. It is not hard to see how catastrophic a 5 degree increase by 2100 would be to life as we know it.

We are already at a point where all of us from coast to coast are feeling the impacts of climate change. This February, an extreme freeze in Texas left millions without power, took over 200 lives and caused dead fish to wash up along Texas shorelines. Earlier this summer, the “heat dome” in the Pacific Northwest was linked to potentially hundreds of deaths and left mussels, clams, barnacles, snails and sea stars struggling to survive the extreme and unrelenting heat. More than a billion animals were literally cooked alive. As I write this blog, yet another unpredictable wildfire season is underway in California.

The Power of Making Smart Investments

UN Secretary-General António Guterres stated that we’re in a “code red for humanity” and called for an end to fossil fuel production and exploration, along with a massive transition to renewable energy, to mitigate climate change. This transition will require a huge amount of investment from governments and the private sector at all levels.

In our fight against climate change, we need to make sure every dollar makes a difference. Unfortunately, fossil fuel subsidies—billions of dollars in special tax breaks to the fossil fuel industry—worsen, rather than solve, the climate crisis. This is because subsidies increase the amounts of fossil fuels we produce and greenhouse gases we emit, polluting our ocean and making virgin plastic cheaper, all while padding the profits of polluters. That’s not helping our ocean or Americans. All the while, taxpayers are spending billions each year to recover from climate disasters.

Over the next 10 years, the fossil fuel industry in the U.S. is set to receive nearly $120 billion dollars from these special tax breaks alone unless Congress and the Biden-Harris Administration takes action. There’s so much we could do with that taxpayer money to protect our ocean and communities and fight climate change:

  • Double existing funding to help build enough offshore wind to power 10 million homes: $5 billion.Offshore wind power is a key ocean-based climate solution that we need to invest in. The Biden-Harris Administration recently announced a goal to deploy 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030, which could catalyze over $12 billion dollars in capital investment per year to advance the domestic supply chain. To accomplish the Biden-Harris goal, federal agencies including the Departments of the Interior, Energy and Commerce as well as state governments have already committed almost $5 billion in investments to jumpstart clean, renewable energy with the potential to eliminate 78 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and create almost 80,000 jobs.
  • Slash emissions from the shipping industry with green port infrastructure: $50 billion. The global shipping industry emits an estimated 1 billion metric tons of CO2 each year—that’s more than the entire country of Germany’s annual emissions. This investment will upgrade existing port infrastructure and equipment with lower-emission alternatives. Investments at this scale, coupled with smart policies for the U.S. shipping sector can help us achieve a zero-emissions shipping industry by 2035. Replacing cargo handling equipment, drayage trucks, and providing onshore power will also reduce harmful air pollution affecting near-port communities.
  • Fix curbside recycling to cut our dependence on oil to make new plastics: $12 billion. The Recycling Partnership estimates that about $12 billion dollars of investment is needed to fix the U.S. curbside recycling system, making recycling widely available and accessible to the entire US population. Improving recycling is an important step in the needed transition away from using so much plastic. Widespread recycling in the U.S. would reduce as much CO2 as taking 20 million cars off the road. Doing this is vital to protect the ocean and dependent communities from plastic pollution.
  • Funding for more than 650 projects to protect coastal communities against storms and sea level rise, absorb greenhouse gases and protect our fisheries: $10 billion. Coastal communities will be hit hard by climate change. The Coastal States Organization has identified 650 shovel-ready coastal restoration projects that would create jobs and protect coastal communities and fisheries against the impacts of climate change. Ocean Conservancy is calling for $10 billion to fund these projects and continue to build coastal resilience across the U.S.

What You Can Do to Help

This is just a start. There is so much we can do to invest in the people, infrastructure and technologies that will help us solve the climate crisis. You can use your voice to protect the ocean and support climate solutions. Tell Congress to stop wasting our tax dollars on fossil fuel subsidies and instead invest in the fight against climate change.

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