Two weeks ago, prospects seemed grim for U.S. climate change policy. And with a series of climate disasters sweeping the globe, congressional failure to act felt doubly painful.
But, to the surprise of nearly everyone in Washington D.C., apart from Sen. Joe Manchin (WV) and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (NY), the Democrats were able to agree on a bill that includes many climate policies that we have been seeking.
It is nothing less than transformational, representing the largest ever investment by the U.S. government to respond to climate change.
The bill, called the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), passed the Senate by a 51-50 vote party line vote on Aug. 7, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote after a debate that stretched through the weekend. Today, the House will hopefully do its part and approve the bill, officially sending it to the president’s desk.
The IRA includes about $369 billion in climate-related programs and incentives. It is nothing less than transformational, representing the largest ever investment by the U.S. government to respond to climate change.
For the past eighteen months, FCNL advocates and lobbyists have been calling for any climate package to contain several key priorities. Fortunately, many of these made it into the final bill, including:
- Tax credits and incentives to spur greater investment in solar and wind power, energy storage technology (critical to bringing more wind and solar onto the grid), and clean energy manufacturing in the United States. These policies will accelerate the U.S. energy transition and lead to a faster reduction in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Research by climate modelers suggests that the IRA could put the U.S. on the path to a 40% cut in its greenhouse gas emissions in the next eight years.
- Incentives for local governments and transit agencies to invest in low or zero-emission buses and garbage trucks, reducing a major source of pollution for many communities; and tax credits to make it easier for families to afford zero-emissions cars.
- $60 billion in environmental justice funding. This includes funding for local-level pollution monitoring, workforce development, and strengthening the voice and engagement of environmental justice communities in public policy processes.
These are only a few of the many exciting and historic climate programs in the IRA.
However, there are some aspects of the Inflation Reduction Act that we don’t agree with. Due to the negotiation process, some potentially harmful provisions were included in the bill. For instance, the package requires the sale of drilling rights in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico. It also makes renewable energy development on federal lands and waters contingent on making two million acres of public land and 60 million acres of federal waters available for oil and gas leases.
Congress clearly still has work to do to protect the interests of frontline communities.
These provisions contradict the bill’s environmental justice investments, and potentially expose marginalized communities to more fossil fuel pollution. Congress clearly still has work to do to protect the interests of frontline communities.
Ultimately, however, while the IRA is far from perfect, we believe that it will support cleaner energy technologies, create jobs, and help to further environmental justice. And it adds critical forward momentum to the drive for a society powered by clean energy.
Friends around the country have engaged their lawmakers repeatedly in the past year, seeking to promote policies that will bring about a cleaner, healthier planet. Your collective efforts have helped enact transformational climate policies that will create a cleaner, healthier, and more equitable society. That’s a moment worth celebrating.