Billions and trillions: Climate efforts set for big boost if Build Back Better bill passes

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For climate experts and policymakers, $1 trillion is just the beginning.

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As the US seeks to prove serious about its international climate commitments, the focus is now on whether the Biden administration can pass its $2 trillion spending bill, which includes $555 billion to fight climate change And it could be the new cornerstone of federal climate policy.

The $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill passed by Congress this month has already committed to historic levels of funding for climate projects. But experts say the US will not reach its climate goals or restore its international credibility until the administration passes its Build Back Better bill, which includes calls for several other climate initiatives. Significant investment in clean energy.


The sizable dollar figures give the U.S. a sense of the scale of the challenge in bringing back its emissions, mitigating some environmental damage, and preparing for more climate-related natural disasters.

“These are the largest pieces of climate policy legislation the US has seen in a decade,” said Katherine Hehoe, a climate researcher and chief scientist at The Nature Conservancy. “The faster we can act, the better it is for us, because we’re already on the table late. The time for half-measures was 30 years ago.”

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The provisions are especially timely as the US tries to step up President Donald Trump’s efforts to undermine critical climate efforts by pulling the country out of the Paris Agreement and hitting a slew of environmental protections.

President Joe Biden’s participation at COP26, a worldwide summit on climate policy held in Scotland this month, marked the US’s return to global climate talks following Biden’s re-joining in the Paris Agreement in January.

At the conference, US officials faced an uphill battle to restore international confidence in America’s climate commitments.

As part of Biden’s updated COP26 pledge, the US aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. David Vasco, director of the International Climate Initiative at the World Resources Institute, a Washington-based non-profit research organization, said the goal was “quite ambitious”, adding that America’s return to international diplomacy on climate change was significant in itself.

“It’s important to remember that if you go back a year, there is no US administration that has been constructively involved in these negotiations,” Vasco said.

While Biden moved to COP26, introducing a new tone, the country’s ability to meet its 2030 goals is likely to depend on the success of infrastructure projects and the outcome of the Build Back Better Act, which if passed. , then it could end up significantly. reached back.

Experts say both are needed to meet the country’s emissions targets.

The infrastructure bill would toughen the country’s roadways and ports to better deal with the effects of climate change, but it offers comparatively little to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that would accelerate climate change.

In Washington state, for example, projects funded by the bill are expected to help re-engineer roads and bridges for a warmer and wetter future, promote transit projects such as light rail, and protect against climate change. Improve the flow of water for battling fish.

Floods this month after record rainfall in parts of western Washington sent landslides on the state’s most-travelled interstate and poured floodwaters into smaller cities – a preview of what climate scientists have more often expected.

Inslee, the Democrat who ran the 2020 presidential campaign focused on climate action, said, “to some degree all the money has an impact on our ability to be more resilient.” “But that doesn’t get us close to the rate at which these floods need to be reduced.”

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The infrastructure bill would spend about $70 billion to upgrade the nation’s electricity grid and $7.5 billion to build a network of charging stations for electric vehicles that could ease the transition from gas-guzzling cars.

But from Inslee’s perspective, it provides only a “step” toward progress, whereas the Build Back Better Bill’s clean energy investment would be “transformative.”

The act calls for spending more than half a trillion dollars on clean energy investments, incentives and tax credits to move the economy away from fossil fuels.

Analysis by the independent Rhodium Group says the budget bill could reduce US carbon emissions by about a gigatonne, which would About the equivalent of removing the annual emissions of light-duty vehicles from US roadways, By combining the budget bill with the infrastructure bill and state and local regulations, the US could meet Biden’s 2030 emissions target, with the budget bill representing the “lion’s share” of the cuts, the analysis says.

“There’s no doubt that the Build Back Better Act is important. It could go a long way toward getting America a 50 to 52 percent reduction,” Vasco said.

The law also prioritizes environmental justice by setting aside 40 percent of the total benefits of investment for disadvantaged communities.

According to the White House, the infrastructure bill pledged $216 million to the Bureau of Indian Affairs specifically for climate resilience projects in Indian counties. About $130 million in money will go toward resettlement projects for tribes that need to move away from climate threats.

The Government Accountability Office said in a report last year that some tribal communities – including many in Alaska – may need to relocate in the coming decades because of climate threats such as coastal erosion, flooding and thawing permafrost.

Fawn Sharp, vice president of the Quinault Indian Nation, whose Washington state seaside villages face threats from tsunamis, coastal erosion and rising sea levels, speculated that his community needed to carry out the plan to uproot the highlands. Requires at least $150 million – at least $20 million more than that committed to all tribes.

Sharp, president of the National Congress of American Indians, broadly said of the infrastructure bill, “It’s unprecedented and the level of funding we haven’t seen in our lifetime.” “While this is important, we have a long way to go in restoring tribal nations.”

Climate scientist Jonathan Foley sees reasons to feel encouraged beyond what happens in Congress.

“Sometimes we get obsessed with these big policies, as if they’re going to save the world, but the real work of reducing emissions and addressing climate change is often a lot of invisible forces at work every day. ,” said Foley, executive director of Project Drawdown, a non-profit organization that provides resources about climate solutions.

For example, market forces and technological advances have helped drive down the cost of solar and wind power, which in turn is contributing to the move away from fossil fuels. Foley said vocal protests, particularly those led by youth activists, are putting pressure on government officials to act.

“Good policymakers can accelerate change, but activism, technology and markets are already working on their own,” he said. “It has nothing to do with who is in the White House.”

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