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Congress Missed the Boat on the Covid19 Stimulus Package re: Climate Change

Published: March 30, 2020 by Editorial Team

When my children were younger, they asked for things. A lot.  Like most parents the answer was mostly, no and sometimes, yes.  For the really big asks, there were conditions.  You want that fancy camera? Save half the money. Want to go to Quebec on the school trip? Stay (or get) on the honor roll.

How then did Congress abandon commonsense provisions in the stimulus package that would have tied the bailout of the airlines to reductions in their emissions?  The plan would have required airlines receiving federal money to start offsetting their emissions in 2025 with a goal of reducing them by 50% by 2050. There was also a provision to fund the retirement of older, less fuel-efficient airplanes to combat recent increases in CO2 emissions from the US airline industry. Since biofuel offsets are predominantly from natural and working lands, mandating each activity would have financial benefits in forestry and agriculture. Both sectors could use a lift, too.

There’s no doubt: we’re all hurting.  The health crisis is expanding, and the airline industry has come to a virtual standstill.  It employs tens of thousands of Americans and cannot be allowed to collapse, but Congress should not treat stimulus money as a free handout.  Strings should have been attached that both support working Americans, and address the issue that the global airline industry emits almost 900 million tons of GHG annually. That figure is expected to triple by 2050.

Public money should be used for the greatest possible good.  Tying airline stimulus funds to broader goals like improving public health would make this seem less like a bailout and more like a deliberate and forward-looking plan.  We are in the midst of a terrible health crises with far reaching economic implications that called for bold action. Heaven forbid Congress address the chronic and deadly health consequences of air pollution with conditions akin to: if you clean up your room, you get your allowance.