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Wu, Markey celebrate climate change victory

Saraya Wintersmith, GBH News
Wu, Markey celebrate climate change victory
U.S. Sen. Ed Markey addresses reporters while Mayor Michelle Wu looks on. PHOTO: ISABEL LEON, MAYOR’S OFFICE

U.S. Sen. Ed Markey and Boston Mayor Michelle Wu jointly praised the United States Senate’s approval of a bill that will boost efforts to combat global warming and cut back demand for fossil fuels through an unprecedented $350 billion in clean energy tax credits, among other measures.

The Inflation Reduction Act passed the divided Senate Sunday in a 51-50 party-line vote. Vice President Kamala Harris cast the tie-breaking vote to advance the legislation. In addition to addressing climate change, the bill makes adjustments to the U.S. tax and healthcare systems. The Democrat-controlled House is expected to take up the measure later this week.

At Boston’s John F. Kennedy federal building Monday, Markey called the bill “one of the most important pieces of legislation to ever be considered by the United States Congress.”

Markey and Wu — whose shared supporters champion climate change as a defining issue — said the bill represents a shift in the political prioritization of climate change and the beginning of a reckoning for the fossil fuel industry.

“This hard-fought victory is decades in the making,” said Markey, invoking his ill-fated 2009 American Clean Energy and Security Act bill, which passed the House but died in the Senate.

Markey said extreme weather events in the years since demonstrate the consequences of climate inaction.

“But today, powered by a movement that never once wavered in the struggle for a livable future, we have a fighting chance at combating this crisis,” he added.

Other provisions in the bill, Markey noted, include a “$30 billion climate bank” that would hand out low-interest loans to cities and towns undertaking local climate-related projects; and incentives for domestic manufacturers of electric vehicles, wind turbines and solar panels.

“We have a lot more work to do to complete a Green New Deal, but this is an excellent start,” said Markey, referencing the Congressional resolution that proposes a ten-year national plan for addressing climate change. Markey introduced the measure into Congress in tandem with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in 2019.

Wu, who campaigned on fostering a municipal Green New Deal, said once finalized, the bill would empower Boston and other cities to implement smaller-scale plans bolstering climate resilience and cutting back pollution.

“I am deeply emotional and relieved as a mother that we are finally a bit [into] the scale of action that we need for our kids,” said Wu, pointing to record heat levels in the years since 2014, when her first son was born.

“It was scary thinking about the future ahead for my new little baby with records being broken,” she said. “His years on this planet have been our planet’s hottest-ever years.”

Wu’s comments come as the city remains under its second multi-day heat emergency of the year through Tuesday. According to a press release, Boston EMS responded to more than 50 incidents directly attributed to heat over the past weekend.

Asked what the federal bill would do to improve the lives of everyday Bostonians, Wu said it will give the city “the resources to take on how climate affects every part of people’s lives [and increase] the access to the affordability of clean energy.”

Wu also announced Monday the appointment of Oliver Sellers-Garcia as Boston’s Green New Deal Director, an inaugural senior advisory role that will shape the Wu administration’s approach to climate resiliency.

Prior to this announcement, Sellers-Garcia served as Director of Resiliency and Equity at the MBTA. He will begin his job with the city next month.

Saraya Wintersmith covers Boston City Hall for GBH News.