Kamala Harris photo

Remarks by the Vice President on the Historic Investments in Climate Action in Charlotte, North Carolina

April 04, 2024

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everyone. Good afternoon. Please have a seat. Please have a seat.

Donnetta, thank you for that introduction and all the work you've been doing at Self-Help. I'm going to talk about that work in a minute.

But I really -- I really appreciate the fact that the spirit behind the announcements we're making today really are about our community leaders and the love, the passion, the commitment, the drive, the ambition that our community leaders have, knowing that when we see and understand who the community is, everyone will benefit. Everyone will benefit. So, thank you for that.

Mayor Lyles -- Mayor Lyles, thank you for once again welcoming me to your beautiful city and for all the leadership that you have provided and the partnership you have provided to the President and me. I want to thank you for that.

And, of course, it is so good to be back in this beautiful state with so many incredible leaders.

The Administrator, Michael Regan, who has been so bold and innovative as a leader for the EPA.

And then I just -- you know I'm going to talk about you -- my Congresswoman. I mean, I know I don't live in your district, but -- (laughter) -- the great Alma Adams, a long-standing champion of North Carolina's families and a dear, dear friend to me for the years that I have been in Washington, D.C., before as a senator and now as vice president.

And many of you may know of her extraordinary work, including being the co-founder of the Black Maternal Health Caucus and all your work there. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you.

And so, thank you to everyone here for all your work.

So, we are here today to address two issues that are critical to the strength of our economy and the future of our nation: access to capital and building a clean energy economy. (Applause.) Yes.

So, as you have now heard, since taking office, the President and I have made an incredible investment, the largest investment ever, to take on the climate crisis: roughly a trillion dollars -- with a T -- (laughter) -- I had to -- (laughter and applause) -- over the next 10 years. 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.

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.

But while every community has the capacity to join the clean energy economy, not every community has had the opportunity to do that.

As vice president, I have met with climate leaders from communities across our nation -- from rural Arizona, to downtown Detroit; from Dalton, Georgia, to Denver, Colorado, to Durham. And I can tell you that I have seen firsthand that in too many places, too many people with all of that talent there have still had limited opportunity to access to capital to do the work that they want to do to start and grow a clean energy business, to make their homes more energy efficient, or to install solar panels or EV chargers in their community.

So, 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.

And then, as vice president, in 2022, I launched the Economic Opportunity Coalition, which is a coalition of banks, technology companies, and nonprofits, to invest billions of dollars in community banks from the private sector so they can make more loans under what we know to be circumstances where we're looking at communities that have been underserved, including our rural communities.

And so far, the Economic Opportunity Coalition has invested over a billion dollars across our country.

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. (Applause.) Yes. And the majority of this $20 billion will go to communities that have historically been left out and left behind.

And here is what is special about this announcement: For the first time in history, we are providing tens of billions of dollars directly to community lenders to finance local climate projects.

This is a novel approach. It is actually the first time we have taken this approach, because we know that we have the capacity with this approach to empower communities to decide which projects they want, that will have the greatest impact from their perspective in the place they call home. And then we can invest in those projects in a way that will actually have value for the people who live there, instead of us from Washington, D.C., telling you what you need. (Applause.) And that is critically important.

And so, today, our announcement is that we have chosen eight nonprofits to lead this work, from a community of -- of 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. Yes.

And this $20 billion investment will allow these eight nonprofits to fund tens of thousands of community-based climate projects.

So, I'd like you to imagine what this means.

Imagine, for example, the young entrepreneur who wants to launch a startup to repair electric vehicle chargers, and that this person can now get a small-business loan to hire her first employees.

Imagine a small-business owner who can now take out a line of credit to buy a fleet of electric delivery vehicles so he can stop paying for gas and reduce pollution at the same time.

Imagine a house of worship that can now get a zero-interest loan so they can install solar panels to generate clean energy through electricity for the entire neighborhood.

Our investment will also help lower energy bills for homeowners and renters. When President Biden and I first ran for office, folks told us we -- we have to take on the climate crisis and we have to also lower monthly energy bills. Well, the investment we're talking about today will do both.

For example, today, I visited Grier Heights -- (applause) -- and as many of you know, it is an his- -- an historically Black neighborhood here in Charlotte. And over the past two decades, the community bank Self-Help worked with residents and community organizations to install good insulation, high-quality windows, and new electric appliances in 49 homes in this part of Charlotte to make them more energy efficient.

So, earlier today, before I arrived here, I visited with one of those homes and met Levon, who is here with his two beautiful sons -- (applause) -- the baby, who is napping after our visit -- (laughter) -- and the older young leader's son who was talking with me about how he was watching the Shirley Chisholm documentary. And I told him I'm counting on his leadership.

And -- and they were so kind to -- to welcome us to -- to visit with them. Levon is a small-business owner and a former middle school teacher. And -- and he shared with me that last -- in his last home, every month, he paid $300 for his gas bill and $300 for his electricity bill.

After moving into one of Self-Help's energy-efficient homes, Levon's total energy bill -- total -- dropped to around $100 a month. (Applause.)

And he offered to me what that meant for him as a young father of young children. He said, well, that savings now allows him to have more money to pay for childcare. He's a small-business owner; he needs childcare for his children. He said that he and his spouse now are putting aside at least $50 a month for each of their sons for their savings account for college or whatever they choose to do.

So, let's think about what this means. Yes, we talk about cutting energy costs. But when we're talking about real people with their dreams and aspirations and responsibilities and obligations, this is a big deal.

So, today's investment will allow Self-Help and other nonprofits to help 30,000 more families across our nation upgrade their homes. And that is just the beginning.

But think about it: Soon, 30,000 more families will have the funds they need to replace drafty windows and install better insulation to keep their homes warm in the winter and cool in the summer and, here in North Carolina, to help you lower that monthly Duke Energy bill. (Applause.) You're welcome. (Laughs.) Right?

And just like Levon, 30,000 more families will now have the opportunity to save potentially hundreds of dollars every month and with more money in their pocket, then, for groceries and school supplies and childcare.

Our $20 billion public investment will also serve as an investment for the private sector. And I met with the leaders of the eight non- -- nonprofits before I came out to thank them. Because over the next seven years, this $20 billion public investment will incentivize more than $100 billion in private-sector investing.

And I know, and I think everyone here knows, that there is great power in public-private partnerships, which demonstrate how much we can accomplish when we combine the experience and expertise of the private sector with the scale and capacity of government.

So, all of that being said, we also know that this investment is going to create jobs -- good-paying union jobs; jobs for the workers of IBEW, who are going to install the energy-efficient lighting; jobs for sheet metal workers who can replace the dirty furnaces and -- and replace them with clean electric heat pumps; and jobs for the laborers who will build affordable, energy-efficient housing.

So, I'll conclude with this. This investment demonstrates an important point: When we invest in climate, we create jobs, we lower costs, and we invest in families.

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.

Thank you all. (Applause.)

May God bless you. And God bless America.

Thank you. Thank you.

Kamala Harris, Remarks by the Vice President on the Historic Investments in Climate Action in Charlotte, North Carolina Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/371091

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