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Congress’s Major Achievement for Climate and Wildlife
After decades of trying, and weeks and months of squabbling and setbacks, Congress is poised to pass the largest effort ever to reduce climate-polluting emissions, reduce carbon dioxide in the air, and make our country more resilient to the changing climate with the Inflation Reduction Act. Contained in the nearly $370 billion dollar package are investments in clean energy, clean manufacturing, electric vehicles, carbon capture and sequestration, and climate resilience, which will put America solidly on the path toward achieving the Biden Administration’s climate goals and our commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement.
The crucial passage by the Senate on August 7 was a momentous achievement secured through intense negotiations over the last 18 months. The National Wildlife Federation was there every step of the way to ensure the bill would do the most possible for the climate, wildlife, and communities that have long borne the brunt of multiple forms of pollution and neglect. The final product is not perfect due to concessions made along the way, but there is no doubt that once passed by the House and signed into law, these investments will represent a sea-change for this country.
Here is a rundown of some of the major investments included in the bill.
- $160 billion in tax credits for clean energy generation, which will mean we can produce more energy from wind and solar, more quickly. The Department of Energy will also get $3.6 billion to offer loan guarantees for clean energy projects. These sources can already be cheaper than new coal and natural gas plants, but the extra incentives will mean renewable projects can be made with even less cost. As a result, consumers are expected to start seeing cheaper energy bills, saving up to $350 per year by the end of the decade.
- $53 billion for clean manufacturing so the U.S. can lead the way in building and producing the components of our clean energy future, like batteries, solar panels, and wind turbines, while generating fewer emissions in the process.
- Investments in carbon management, including enhanced tax credits to spur the development and deployment of carbon capture retrofits in hard-to-decarbonize industries, and for new direct air capture technology that removes carbon straight from the atmosphere for underground storage.
- Investments for underserved communities, with as much as $47 billion going to programs specifically targeted to environmental justice or Tribal communities, or to reduce emissions of toxic and smog-forming pollutants that fall most heavily on those communities.
- Support for rural America, with an unprecedented $20 billion to help farmers, ranchers, and foresters produce more sustainably and sequester more carbon in the soil; $9.7 billion to help rural electric co-ops replace dirty coal plants with clean energy sources; and an additional $2.7 billion for renewable energy loans and the Rural Energy for America Program.
- Investments in nature, which will help reduce emissions, boost climate resilience, and conserve our lands, water, and wildlife. The bill includes more than $2 billion for restoration work in National Forests, more than $2.5 billion for state and private forests, $2.8 billion for coastal restoration and resiliency, nearly $1 billion for the National Park Service, $4 billion for drought mitigation, $125 million for wildlife under the Endangered Species Act, and $125 million for climate resilience in the National Wildlife Refuge System.
And the list goes on, with additional items like the first-ever U.S. price on greenhouse gas emissions—a new methane fee on oil and gas producers—plus numerous incentives for clean vehicles, state climate programs, investments in energy efficiency measures for families and businesses, and more. The investments in the bill are expected to create some 9 million jobs over the next decade. The fact is, this is a huge deal.
The National Wildlife Federation pushed hard for many of these items, often taking a leading role in making sure they were part of the package. This is true for many of the investments in our lands and waters, on farms and ranches, and in environmental justice communities. Another priority was attaching extra benefits to energy and manufacturing tax credits for projects in EJ communities as well as those affected by the transition away from fossil fuel production and use. All of these will help working families, create jobs, and address the climate crisis. We need to build off these investments to truly ensure that all people—whether they live in rural Appalachia or in urban centers—can go from surviving to thriving in the emerging clean economy.
With the planet on the brink of a climate tipping point, this bill is absolutely necessary and gets our country squarely onto the path enabling a safer, more resilient future for wildlife and people.