“The economy has taken priority over environmental issues.”

You're writing an essay about things the government has been doing to control climate change. You write this to explain that the government hasn't done much to fight climate change because they have been focused on improving the economy instead.

The economy has taken priority over environmental issues.

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for the past (length of time)

This is a phrase used to tell how long something has been continuing. It's used for an action that's still happening now, but may or may not continue in the future:

I've been living in New York for the past three and a half years.

take priority over (something)

This means that one thing is considered to be more important than something else.

the economy

When you talk about "the economy," you are usually talking about the financial situation of the country you live in. Parts of the economy include how many people have jobs, how easy it is to get a loan, and how much people are spending.

environmental issues

"Environmental issues" are problems or worries that people have about the environment. Examples of environmental issues are climate change (the Earth getting warmer because of CO2 in the air), endangered species (types of animals that there aren't many of left), deforestation (cutting down too many trees in places like the Amazon), and nuclear waste disposal (getting rid of radioactive material from nuclear bombs and power plants).