Biden’s American Jobs Plan is smart climate policy. Here’s why.

Derek Walker

President Biden’s American Jobs Plan is designed to generate millions of new, good-paying union jobs, revitalize aging U.S. infrastructure and address historic inequities in access to clean water and air — all while combating climate change.

Pitching his plan at a joint session of Congress last week, President Biden said, “For too long, we have failed to use the most important word when it comes to meeting the climate crisis. Jobs.”

The plan itself boldly declares that, “Every dollar spent on rebuilding our infrastructure during the Biden administration will be used to prevent, reduce, and withstand the impacts of the climate crisis.”

The investments in clean power and a newer, cleaner transportation system are especially vital for building back a stronger, more equitable economy.

Jobs, jobs, jobs

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, clean energy jobs were growing 70% faster than the economy as a whole. Other strong signals show that businesses are heading squarely toward a clean-energy future:

  • Automakers are projected to spend more than $250 billion through 2030 developing new electric vehicle models.
  • The EV industry employed almost 130,000 people across the U.S. in 2019 and that number will expand enormously in the next decade with growing investments.
  • Over 87 million utility customers in the U.S. get service from a utility that’s committed to going 100% clean.

Federal lawmakers have an opportunity to supercharge the growth of clean energy jobs here at home. Incentives like the manufacturing tax credit outlined in Biden’s plan would allow U.S. manufacturers to retool and build new factories for electric vehicles, wind turbines, batteries and more.

Additionally, updating our grid infrastructure to accommodate more clean sources, like wind and solar, can support tens to hundreds of thousands of high-paying jobs. A recent EDF report assesses a whole range of clean-job-generating solutions that leaders can include in stimulus and recovery legislation. Many of these are included in the American Jobs Plan.

The plan could also catalyze economic growth in communities that have long experienced disinvestment as a result of systemic racism. At the same time, clean energy and transportation infrastructure can reduce the harmful air pollutants that tend to be at higher concentrations, and result in the worst health outcomes, in low-income communities and communities of color.

Fortunately, there is strong support for economic stimulus that prioritizes investments in clean energy infrastructure and technologies. Voters are ready for the U.S. to lead the global clean-energy economy.

A down payment on climate action

Powering up the country with clean electricity and clean transportation are critical steps toward the long-term goal of reaching net zero emissions by no later than 2050. The power and transportation sectors account for more than half of all U.S. climate pollution and are major sources of toxic air pollution.

Efforts to scale up renewable energy sources and rapidly modernize the electric grid are key to reducing emissions and air pollution from buses, trucks, cars and even buildings as they are increasingly electrified.

This historic plan is a down payment on the transformational, economy-wide effort needed to reach the 2050 goal and will help buy down the costs of the reductions required to get there.

Of course, the plan won’t be enough to address all of the economic, equity and climate challenges ahead. The Biden administration will need to leverage all departments and agencies to get the job done, and Congress will need to pass more legislation, including strong limits on pollution across the economy.

Even so, the American Jobs Plan represents a major step forward on the economy and on climate. As Biden has said, it’s an opportunity to make a “once-in-a-generation investment in America.”

There’s no time to waste.

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