The United States, after decades of political grudge and clouding of the fossil fuel industry, is on the verge of its first significant attempt to tackle the climate crisis. Experts say it will help rewire the US economy and act as an important step in averting disastrous global warming.
An independent analysis of the bill, known as the Inflation Reduction Act, shows it is expected to reduce America’s global warming emissions by about 40% by the end of the decade, compared to 2005 levels.
This cut would take the United States an impressive distance from Joe Biden’s goal of cutting emissions by half by 2030, a goal that scientists believe must be achieved by the entire world if catastrophic global warming, triggering heat waves, drought and increasing floods are to be avoided.
“This is a huge turning point,” said Leah Stokes, a climate policy expert at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “This account includes so much, it includes nearly $ 370 billion in climate and clean energy investments. This is truly historic. Overall, the IRA is a huge opportunity to tackle the climate crisis. “
The climate provisions in the legislation – totaling $ 369 billion, to be exact – are reduced to what Biden initially intended. Atrocious negotiations with Joe Manchin, the West Virginia senator who owns the coal company and a swinging vote on the bill, resulted in a reduced compromise.
But its weight may still, said Brian Schatz, another Democratic senator, be considered “by far the largest climate action in human history.” Biden said the bill was a “huge step forward”.
If the Democrats manage to collect all 50 votes of their Senate for the bill, overcoming the uniform Republican resistance to act on the climate emergency, billions of dollars will go to investments in renewable energy such as wind and solar, discounts for those who want buying cars electricity and supporting families to run them on clean electricity and become more energy efficient.
In summary, the bill will cut U.S. emissions by between 31% and 44% from 2005 levels by 2030, according to Rhodium Group, a non-partisan research firm. A separate analysis by Energy Innovation, another research house, found a similar reduction, ranging from 37% to 41% over this decade. In total, around 1 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases would be eliminated in this timeframe, which is more than double the UK’s total annual emissions.
The range of estimates depends on factors such as future economic conditions, but experts say the bill will unleash a cascade of positive impacts, pushing fossil fuels off the energy grid, quenching America’s thirst for oil, and producing wind and power. solar, which have already plummeted in cost in recent years, even cheaper.
“This bill will really enhance the transition to clean energy, transform markets where solar PV, wind and batteries are in many cases cheaper than historic fossil fuels,” said Anand Gopal, executive director. of Energy Innovation policies.
“This is a dramatically large climate bill, the largest in US history if it passes. That doesn’t mean the US won’t have to do more to meet its emissions targets, but it will make a significant difference. “
The bulk of the bill is made up of tax credits aimed at sparking a boom in clean energy deployment, along with payments to keep obsolete nuclear plants and other low-carbon energy sources online. A new tariff system will be imposed to stem the loss of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, from oil and gas drilling operations. The vast fleet of trucks used by the US Postal Service would go electric.
Consumers will be able to access a discount of up to $ 7,500 for a new electric vehicle, or up to $ 4,000 for a used car, along with up to $ 8,000 to install a modern electric heat pump capable of heating and cooling. buildings. Additional discounts are also available, such as $ 1,600 to insulate and seal a home to make it more energy efficient.
These actions would reduce emissions while having other significant benefits. According to Energy Innovations, up to 1.5 million jobs would be created in new clean energy roles, while Rewiring America, another research firm, predicted that households installing a heat pump, solar panels on the roof and using an electric car would save $ 1,800 per year on their energy bills.
Meanwhile, thousands of deaths would be averted, especially among people of color who have to suffer from air pollution from nearby fossil fuel infrastructure. “If you live near a power plant that’s pumping toxins, that’s your main concern here, not climate change,” Gopal said.
The legislation is also an attempt to regain momentum from China, which has become the world’s leading producer of solar panels, batteries and other clean energy materials. There are billions of dollars in incentives for US domestic production of wind turbines, solar panels, batteries, carbon capture and storage, and other technologies.
This, in turn, would help proliferate these technologies in the United States and make it easier for federal agencies to enact stricter pollution regulations for cars, trucks, and power plants. Meanwhile, the international effort to prevent global warming of more than 1.5 ° C (2.7 ° F) above pre-industrial levels, hampered so far by an erratic US response to the climate crisis, would receive a major boost.
“You will have many mutually beneficial impacts,” Gopal said. “This should change the way the US is viewed on the global stage and encourage better engagement from other large emitters like China and India. I am increasingly optimistic that keeping the temperature rise below 2 ° C (3.6 ° F) is more achievable. 1.5C is a stretched target at this point.
Climate advocates have criticized elements of the bill, such as Manchin’s successful insistence that leases for oil and gas drilling in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico be included, along with the clause that millions of acres federal land and water are open to fossil fuels if they are to be accessible by solar and wind power developers as well. Such a deal is a “climate suicide pact,” according to Brett Hartl, an activist with the Center for Biological Diversity.
But Energy Innovation researchers insist that the bill’s clean energy benefits easily outweigh any extra emissions from new drilling, with every ton of new emissions offset by at least 24 tons of emissions avoided by other provisions. The United States, much later than most other major economies, would finally have a long-term climate roadmap.
“I wouldn’t have put those leases on the bill, but the climate side is way ahead,” Gopal said.
“Is this legislation the dimension of what we need for the climate? No. Is it extraordinary given the politics and the Senate we have? Yes, it is incredible. We can’t make up for the time lost by US inaction – we can see the price the world is paying for it right now – but it’s not too late. This can make a huge difference. “