‘The clock is ticking’: VP Harris visits Baltimore to announce $20B to combat climate change

Published 7/14/2023 5:28 p.m. EDT, Updated 7/15/2023 12:46 a.m. EDT

Vice President Kamala Harris stopped at Baltimore’s Coppin State University Friday to announce $20 billion in federal funding to help finance clean energy projects in disadvantaged communities across the nation.

The vice president described the new stream of funding as “the largest investment in financing for community-based climate projects in our nation.”

The money will be available to nonprofit organizations, banks and other lenders to be matched by private money to finance clean energy projects.

Speaking in a packed, stuffy auditorium at Coppin, Harris gave examples of how the money could be used, such as helping housing developers pay to install high-efficiency appliances in apartments — reducing electricity use and saving money for tenants.

Or the money could help a small business switch from gas-powered to electric-powered delivery vehicles, or for houses of worship to install solar panels that would help power the neighborhood, she said.

A key goal of the program will be “investing in overlooked communities,” Harris said.

Community banks will be a focus of the program, as they’re run by people who live and work in the community and recognize the needs and potential of neighborhoods. “That’s the kind of vehicle we need to think about how we get these billions of dollars to the people who know what to do with it,” Harris said.

Harris spoke of the urgency to act on climate change, which is driving hotter weather and stronger storms.

“It is clear that the clock is not only ticking, it is banging and we must act,” Harris said.

One of the problems with fighting climate change, she said, is that investments haven’t been done at a large enough scale and in the right communities to make a difference.

“We also frankly have to make up for lost time,” she said. “By dramatically accelerating our work, we know we can lower emissions.”

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The vice president was preceded by a series of officials who spoke of the need to combat climate change generally and to help communities of color and those who have borne the brunt of the changing climate. Speakers mentioned record hot days this summer and catastrophic flooding in Vermont and New York.

“The climate crisis is real and it is here. You only have to stand outside to know it’s true,” said Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, earning a knowing chuckle from audience members who stood in a long line in searing heat to get into the event.

The money comes from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, a $27 billion fund within the Inflation Reduction Act.

”The Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund is Bidenomics in action,” said Michael S. Regan, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “Bidenomics” has become the administration’s catchphrase to describe President Joe Biden’s economic programs as he campaigns for reelection in 2024.

A large blue screen on stage bore the Biden-Harris slogan, “Investing in America,” in large letters. The president and vice president have been traveling the country to tout their first-term economic efforts.

The $20 billion announced Friday is split into two programs: $14 billion in grants to nonprofits to fund “tens of thousands of clean energy technology projects” and $6 billion to lenders in low-income communities to finance clean energy.

“No matter where you live, you’ll have access to pollution-reducing and cost-saving technologies,” Regan said. “This is real money for real people.”

Before the onstage program, Harris and Regan were privately briefed by local officials and organizations on environmental initiatives and how they could be boosted with federal money.