Bold climate action can’t wait, and it can’t happen if Sinema and Kelly don’t back it

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Recently, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema told the Arizona Republic, “We know that a changing climate costs Arizonans. And right now, we have the opportunity to pass smart policies to address it — looking forward to that.” The Senator acknowledged the steep costs of climate change in our state related to larger wildfires, extreme drought, and extreme heat and said she is looking forward to passing policies to address it. 

I am, too, but Congress can’t pass legislation that is so eviscerated it again leaves out those most affected by the climate crisis—people with lower incomes, people of color and Indigenous communities. We need bold climate action now and can’t afford to miss this important opportunity—perhaps the most significant opportunity this decade—to invest heavily in addressing the climate crisis. 

President Joe Biden has proposed, and Congress is considering, bold action on climate in the Build Back Better Act, and Arizona needs both Sinema and U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly to speak up for and support the full act. 


There’s no question that the Build Back Better Act includes some big numbers, but the human cost of inaction on climate change is much higher. Extreme weather alone, fueled in part by climate change, has cost about $1 trillion over the last 15 years — and that’s if you count only the billion-dollar natural disasters. For Arizona, the costs have been high for drought and flooding, as well.

We have seen far too much of this costly inaction on climate change in recent years at both our state and federal level. Unlike many of Arizona’s cities and towns, the state itself has no climate action plan, and the Trump administration actually eradicated federal climate action. 

We cannot afford half-measures or cuts to the programs that will benefit our families and communities — benefits that are highlighted in a recent Arizona State University report and include the nearly 100,000 jobs in Arizona per year for 10 years, and measures in the Clean Electricity Payment Program that will help to decarbonize electricity generation and reduce air pollution in the process, potentially saving hundreds of thousands of lives annually. 

The Build Back Better Act will help clean up our air, including here in Phoenix, where I live and where transportation contributes significantly to air pollution. The U.S. House reconciliation budget includes $10 billion for public transit, $5 billion for electric school buses and trucks, $42 billion for electric vehicle rebates, and $13.5 billion for electric vehicle charging stations, all of which will help our communities breathe easier.

I am also excited about the $10 billion in funding for a Civilian Climate Corps, a program to provide good paying jobs to our country’s youth, helping to restore and protect public lands and mitigate the impacts of climate change. In Arizona, that could mean removing invasive species, helping with revegetation, or addressing post-fire soil erosion. Unlike the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s, the Civilian Climate Corps will include a diversity of young people who are paid good living wages all while helping our communities and public lands. 

So, senators, let’s get this done for our country, state, and communities. With significant investments and leadership, we can truly build back better and protect Arizonans’ lives and livelihoods from the climate crisis.


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Sen. Rebecca Rios, D-Phoenix
Sen. Rebecca Rios, D-Phoenix

Rebecca Rios is a Democrat from Legislative District 27, which covers parts of south and west Phoenix. She was first elected to the legislature in 1994 and served until 2000. She was again elected in 2012.