Climate Emergency: Oregon Sen. Merkley calls for national declaration

Sen. Jeff Merkley signs an autograph and meets with citizens during a previous Oregon town hall meeting.

Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley is urging the incoming Biden administration to declare a national climate emergency, he said would unlock powerful tools to address the climate crisis.

Merkley outlined his recommendations in an op-ed published Dec. 21 by The Washington Post.

“Too many Americans are experiencing the wrath of climate-related disasters firsthand," Merkley wrote. "These disasters are killing our citizens, bankrupting businesses, endangering our national security and threatening to leave our children a world of growing scarcity and conflict. The climate crisis is an emergency, and President-elect Joe Biden needs to treat it that way. That means using every tool available to him, including declaring a national climate emergency and using emergency powers to take unilateral executive action.”

According to Merkley, declaring climate chaos a national emergency under the National Emergency Act (NEA) would unlock powers that would allow the United States to take significant, concrete actions, regardless of congressional gridlock. Specifically, the declaration would allow the president to redirect spending to build out renewable energy systems, help put large-scale clean transportation solutions in place, and finance distributed energy projects to boost climate resiliency. Each of these steps would help safeguard communities across America and slash the harmful pollution that continues to drive the climate crisis.

Merkley also explained in his op-ed that the Defense Protection Act (DPA) would help address the national security threats posed by our climate crisis and strengthen emergency preparedness in America by supporting the construction of resilient energy infrastructure and mobilizing domestic industry to ramp up the manufacturing of clean energy technologies. These are necessary steps to protect Americans from the coming deluge of violent storms and extreme weather events on the horizon, and can also spawn a robust clean energy industry can generate millions of high-quality American jobs vital to rejuvenating our post-COVID economy, according to Merkley.

Over 500 environmental, health, faith, and labor groups have also called for a climate emergency declaration. Earlier this month at the summit marking the fifth anniversary of the Paris climate agreement, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres called on every country to declare a climate emergency. The Paris Agreement is a legally binding international treaty on climate change.

Merkley serves on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and is a member of the Senate Select Committee on the Climate Crisis and the Environmental Justice Caucus.

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