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Statement of the Hon. Dean Phillips on SBA's Role in Climate Solutions

The coronavirus pandemic may have been the most severe and widespread shock to the global economy in recent history. It was a harsh reminder of the economic and social injury that come with being unprepared. The impact to small businesses in the U.S. has been especially damaging. In an effort to quickly address the crisis, Congress established emergency relief programs like the Paycheck Protection Program, which has provided more than $798 billion in economic aid to 8.5 million small businesses and nonprofits across the country.

Throughout the pandemic, we experienced the heartbreaking human cost of a slow, uncoordinated response and our businesses are still battling the economic consequences. I look forward to this Subcommittee holding a future hearing on the challenges that inflation, competition, and labor shortages pose to small businesses, but today I want to turn our attention to how the lessons of the coronavirus can help inform our response to the looming crisis of our rapidly evolving climate.

Scientists and experts have long warned of the devastation of a pandemic-scale climate crisis, but recently those predictions have transformed into devastating realities. Today, historic droughts, rising sea levels, and other extreme weather events pose a significant risk to life as we know it.

In the same way that we could not have imagined how the pandemic would alter our lives and livelihoods, we can hardly anticipate the challenges that await us if our conservation and sustainability efforts remain unrealized.

With small firms accounting for 99 percent of all businesses, they will substantially contribute to the fight against climate change. Businesses, governments, and individuals have a vital role to play as we work to manage disruption risk, invest in more resilient infrastructure, reduce our carbon footprint and build a green economy.

While short-term economic challenges, such as unemployment, supply chain management, and shipping delays are important outstanding matters, global environmental threats only stand to worsen these issues in the long-term and the fact of the matter is we must be solving for both.

This will present monumental challenges but also immense opportunities. By innovating to go green, small businesses can help create new industries and good-paying jobs as part of the clean energy economy.

The clean energy economy already covers many industries that are dominated by small businesses. For example, the construction, manufacturing, and renewable energy sectors all have a high percentage of small firms.

In 2020, renewable energy provided 21% of energy consumption in the US, and fossil fuel consumption hit its lowest level since 1991. As the federal government prioritizes combatting climate change, the renewable sector will continue to grow. As the adoption of wind, solar, and other renewable energy systems increase, small business owners stand to benefit.

Going green also presents many benefits for small businesses on a micro-level. Green energy is often the cheapest way to power a business and switching to renewables can often boost an entrepreneur's bottom line.

Small business owners who save money through energy efficiency improvements can reallocate it to capital expenditures to make their enterprise more competitive and profitable.

Renewable investment can uplift the American economy as a whole. Seizing on the opportunities the green economy creates can help revitalize America’s energy production, manufacturing, and position America as a clean energy leader. 

These benefits make it plain that the federal government must offer adequate incentives for businesses to go green.

The SBA has a clear role in supporting the small businesses that want to make the transition to renewables. The agency already has several programs that supply small firms with capital to undergo business improvements, purchase assets, and rebuild after a disaster.

It’s vital that we take a close look at these programs and find ways to optimize them to serve businesses that want to switch to renewables or make other climate-related decisions. Investing in energy infrastructure improvements or preparing your business for future weather events can be costly endeavors, that’s why the SBA’s programs must ensure they are setup to help small businesses confronting the reality of the climate crisis.

By crafting programs that understand the level of vulnerability small firms face, we can better prepare for future environmental threats to our nation, its economy, and the health of our fellow citizens. I hope this hearing will enable us to increase the resilience of small businesses that were strongly affected by the pandemic and continue to need our support in these endeavors.

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