The biggest thing Congress has ever done to address climate change

Fred Krupp

Editor’s note: President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act on Aug. 16, 2022.

It’s a new day in the fight against climate change, thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act. With its $369 billion in climate and clean energy investments, the new law is the largest, most ambitious climate legislation Congress has ever passed.

Multiple independent analyses show the bill will reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions some 40% below 2005 levels by 2030, a big step toward President Biden’s goal of cutting them in half by 2030.

It will make a difference in people’s lives, cutting energy costs and creating high-quality jobs.

It also restores U.S. leadership in international climate negotiations by signaling how seriously it takes climate change. This will lend more credibility to its calls on peer nations to do more, and hopefully will have an impact on global green investment and innovation.

Why this law is such a big deal

This sweeping legislation will help families, communities and businesses across the U.S. It will create more than 9 million clean energy and manufacturing jobs, positioning the economy to compete successfully in a $23 trillion global clean energy market.

It will also bolster our energy security by accelerating the transition to electric vehicles and clean power.

As it relates to the environment, the bill includes:

  • A nationwide program to reduce methane emissions. (Cutting methane emissions is the fastest way to slow the rate of global warming today.)
  • More than $135 billion for clean energy tax credits to ramp up solar and wind power. This could save households $500 a year in energy costs.
  • Tax incentives to help jumpstart adoption of electric vehicles.
  • $60 billion for environmental justice — assisting communities that have long borne the brunt of environmental pollution.
  • $21 billion to help U.S. farmers and rural communities cut emissions and make food production more resilient to climate impacts we can’t avoid.
  • $2.6 billion to make coastal regions more resilient in the face of extreme weather and sea-level rise.

In addition, the bill includes the most extensive amendments to the Clean Air Act since 1990, reinforcing the Environmental Protection Agency’s long-standing responsibility to address climate pollution while giving the agency new tools and new funding to protect communities.

This will strengthen the EPA’s ability, over the next 18 months, to establish limits on methane emissions from new and existing oil and gas development, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from new passenger vehicles, trucks, power plants and industrial sources.

While there is much to praise, this law is not perfect. Progress was only made possible through compromise and shared belief that this legislation represents the floor of opportunity. There is more work to do, but this is a strong start.

And while the bill ushers unprecedented resources toward environmental justice, much more will be urgently needed to address the inequitable pollution burdens currently afflicting communities.

What's next for the climate and clean energy

Our next job is to help ensure that the $369 billion is spent strategically, efficiently and equitably, maximizing carbon reductions while providing opportunity for innovation and job creation for families.

And as we and our allies press to meet the president’s pledge of cutting U.S greenhouse gas emissions in half, we will continue to work intensively and collaboratively across sectors of government, business and communities.

We are committed to the work of tightening regulations on the oil and gas industry within states, strengthening the transportation sector guidance to reduce pollution and helping communities to not only adapt, but thrive.

This climate law's message: There is hope

The work ahead won’t be easy. Our collective responsibility to equitable climate action requires facing the tough issues if we are to create a just and equitable climate future.

But for now, there’s reason to celebrate. This is especially true for young people.

Over the summer, a number of EDF’s extraordinary interns asked me why I have hope for the future. Some worried about what kind of planet they might leave for their children if they choose to have them.

These questions reflect legitimate concerns about our ability to respond effectively to the climate threat. But the message of the Inflation Reduction Act is that there is hope, and that the future can be better.

And it should reenergize all of us — young and old — as we work to build a vital Earth for everyone.

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