Clean energy backers call for national climate action
By Heather Graves
GREEN BAY – Local clean energy supporters gathered at UW-Green Bay Aug. 30 calling for Congressional action in addressing the effects of climate change.
“We are calling on Congress to seize the momentous opportunity before them by passing the budget reconciliation package that is currently moving its way through Congress,” Northeast Organizer of Wisconsin Conservation Voters Casey Hicks said. “We have long passed the luxury of inaction… We must recognize the gravity of the moment that we are in. The stakes have never been higher. The need has never been greater than right now this very moment.”
Joined by Green Bay Mayor Eric Genrich, Brown County Supervisors Tom Friberg, Cassandra Erickson and Amanda Chu, Green Bay School Board Vice President Laura McCoy, Green Bay District 7 Alderperson Randy Scannell and Founder of GiveaDaam Ventures, LLC Marissa Michaelavicz, the event was just one of many statewide as part of the Build Back Better Wisconsin Month of Action.
Hicks said recent polling in Wisconsin shows 69% of residents support tax credits for clean energy, with a vast majority supporting electric vehicle investments.
“This is no easy task, but thankfully Congress has been given the mandate (through the budget reconciliation package) to act boldly,” Hicks said. “I think the folks standing behind me in local government, institutions and organizations in Northeast Wisconsin are a further testament to that mandate.”
Friberg said if the budget reconciliation package passes – which includes a clean electricity payment program, incentives for clean energy and vehicles, investments in climate-smart agriculture and forestry and new consumer rebates for electrification – state and local governments would finally have the funding to address climate change.
Friberg said he has ideas of what the city and county can do with the money, including a solar panel recycling facility in Green Bay with a group buy plan option for residents to buy solar panels, too, and sending out wildflower seed packets to interested residents.
“But those are just ideas,” he said. “And they will stay just ideas until more citizens get involved.”
Friberg, a member of the county’s new Energy Subcommittee, which met for the first time Aug. 26, said he ran for supervisor to address climate change.
“I was tired of seeing inaction at the state and federal level and wanted to see if I could make a difference on a local level,” Friberg said. “As it turns out, you can.”
He said the subcommittee is tasked with identifying and recommending efficiency and energy improvements within the county.
“The ultimate goal of the subcommittee is to achieve 100% clean energy use by facilities and operations by 2050,” he said.
Genrich said Green Bay has been able to make some progress thanks to the effort of local elected officials.
“Certainly, we wouldn’t have been able to do that without the organizing abilities and the support (Wisconsin) Conservation Voters has offered us here,” he said.
Genrich said the city’s plan of 0% carbon emission by 2050, will not be possible without federal help.
“It is not going to be possible for us to meet that goal, quite honestly, without additional support from our federal government,” he said. “The American Rescue Plan Act offers us some additional resources that we are definitely going to be putting to work to make some investments in climate resiliency, green infrastructure and other strategies to deal with the effects of climate change. But we really need to move further upstream, and I think that is what a bipartisan infrastructure deal (which passed the Senate) plus budget reconciliation will enable us all to do that at the local level. Certainly, all of us gathered here today recognize the existential threat that climate change represents.”
Genrich said climate change has never been theological, but it has been hard for some to make the effects of climate change tangible.
“Now, unfortunately, it is not very difficult…,” he said. “Events in the City of Green Bay are happening more and more frequently. There is really no such thing as a 100-year storm anymore because it seems to happen every single year, something that our residents and the City of Green Bay as an organization has been dealing with, unfortunately, for some time. But we know the solutions are in front of us. We just need our federal government to step up and offer us the tools to address those challenges.”