Kamala Harris touts ‘largest investment ever’ in climate crisis during North Carolina visit

Vice President Kamala Harris, speaking in Charlotte, highlighted the Joe Biden administration’s investment in efforts to combat climate change.

“Roughly a trillion dollars — with a ‘T,’” she said to laughter and applause.

“And that investment to create millions of jobs; to provide billions of dollars of clean energy money and investment to small businesses and entrepreneurs; to lower monthly energy bills for families across our nation; and to expand access to capital,” the Vice President added in what was her fourth stop in the Tar Heel State this year.

The trillion-dollar figure is one Harris has used often. It’s not a single source of funding, but includes “all of the clean energy, resilience, environmental justice, and innovation funding” that contributes to combatting the climate crisis, according to a White House spokesperson statement given to E&E News, a POLITICO product that focuses on coverage on energy and the environment.

E&E News reported that the figure includes $54 billion from the 2022 CHIPS and Science Act, $530 billion in new spending from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and funding increases at the Environmental Protection Agency and the departments of Energy, Transportation and Commerce.

A White House fact sheet released in March similarly highlights spending committed to climate-related action, including funds to protect “more than 26 million acres of lands and waters” and to restore “the vital role of science in guiding federal decision-making.”

The fact sheet outlines $385 million to weatherize and retrofit homes for low-income Americans, $113 million for jobs related to clean energy manufacturing, $95 million to transition Tribal colleges and universities to renewable energy and electrify Tribal homes, and $102 million for local governments and states to help utilities integrate clean energy sources into electric grids.

In her speech Thursday, Harris also highlighted the importance of clean energy jobs.

“In every community in our nation, there are, of course, extraordinary people with talent, ingenuity, and the ability to help us take on the climate crisis: entrepreneurs, who I’ve met, who founded an innovative solar and wind power start-up that can help reduce our greenhouse gas emissions; in communities where there are small-business owners who help produce the batteries that power our nation’s fleet of electric vehicles; and, of course, community organizers that help millions of families make their homes more energy efficient to lower their energy bills,” she said.

But she lamented that even though talent exists across the nation, not every community has the ability to create access to capital for innovators.

“I have fought for years with so many of you — we have fought together shoulder to shoulder — to expand access to capital for every community.  And as you heard, as a United States senator, I was proud to — to gain more than $12 billion, which we secured for our nation’s community banks. And those are, of course, financial institutions which are run by folks who live, work, and invest in the communities they serve,” she said.

She also touched on the Economic Opportunity Coalition, which launched in 2022 and is a coalition of banks, tech companies and nonprofits and has invested more than $1 billion in community banks to issue more loans in underserved communities, according to Harris.

“And then, last year, we announced the largest investment in our nation’s history, $20 billion, to create a national network of nonprofits to expand access to capital for community-based climate projects — projects run by leaders from the community,” Harris said, adding that most of the funds will go to underserved areas.

She called the investments “a novel approach,” and said the administration has selected eight nonprofits — from “banks that are a network that serve Native communities, to a rural economic development collective that works in Appalachia, to a group of lenders that focus on economic and climate justice” — to oversee $20 billion in investment to “fund tens of thousands of community-based climate projects.”

Harris said the $20 billion investment “will incentivize more than $100 billion in private-sector investing.”

“This investment demonstrates an important point: When we invest in climate, we create jobs, we lower costs, and we invest in families,” Harris said. “When we expand access to capital and give every person in our nation, no matter who they are or where they live, the opportunity to pursue their dreams, we build a cleaner, healthier and more equitable and more prosperous future for everyone.”

Harris was in Raleigh last week with President Joe Biden as the home stretch on a swing through battleground states as the two seek re-election. On that trip, Harris and Biden focused on the administration’s work to lower prescription drug costs, protect Medicare and Medicaid and fight for reproductive freedom.

Harris also visited Black Wall Street in Durham this month, where she announced investments in entrepreneurship, access to capital and small business. Early this year, she visited Eastway Middle School in Charlotte, where she announced $285 million in funding to help schools nationwide train mental health counselors through the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.

North Carolina is an important state for Harris and Biden as they ramp up campaigning for this year’s Presidential Election, a likely rematch against former President Donald Trump, who is now the GOP’s presumptive nominee. Trump won the state in both 2016 against Hillary Clinton and in 2020 against Biden.

Democrats have not won a U.S. Senate seat or a presidential race in North Carolina since 2008, but Trump’s margin of victory in the state four years ago was narrow, at just 1.3 percentage points.

The party sees an opening this year with issues that have proven successful for Democrats in recent years, including reproductive freedom, still dominating headlines. Two statewide GOP candidates, Mark Robinson for Governor and Michele Morrow for State Schools Superintendent, are also highly controversial in that they both have a history of incendiary remarks. That gives Democrats fodder to fire up moderate voters.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. In early 2022, she left the business to serve as Communications Director for St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch. After leaving the administration, Janelle briefly worked as a communications consultant for candidates, businesses and non-profits, before accepting her position as Publisher for Southeast Politics, a homecoming of sorts to her Florida Politics roots, where she served as a reporter and editor for several years. Janelle has also held roles covering the intersection of politics and business for the Tampa Bay Business Journal and general assignment news with an emphasis on social justice and climate change for WMNF Community Radio, where she also hosted a political call-in show under several names, including Last Call, Midpoint and The Scoop. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at [email protected]

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