On Wednesday afternoon, President Joe Biden presented his infrastructure proposal in front of a carpenter apprentice center in Pittsburgh. The US $ 2 trillion employment plan goes well beyond funding repairs to highways and bridges. In keeping with Biden’s election promises, a central focus is on combating climate change.
From promoting public transportation to funding new research and development in breakthrough clean energy technologies, efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions add up to more than $ 1 trillion over an eight-year period. larger than the entire recovery package that Obama passed to combat the Great Recession.
However, democrats and clean energy advocates disagree on whether the investment package is big enough to tackle the climate crisis. Josh Freed, director of climate and energy programs at the center-left think tank Third Way, told Vox that the scope of the plan is appropriate as it will encourage further private sector investment as well. However, some progressives are pushing for up to trillion more spending.
On Tuesday, a coalition of labor and environmental groups called for $ 4 trillion in climate protection investments, and the Progressive Caucus of Congress proposed spending of $ 1 trillion a year for the next decade.
Varshini Prakash is the founder of the Sunrise movement, which supports the latter proposal. “The priorities and approach are right – this includes the framework of the Green New Deal – but as of now this plan can only be seen as the beginning of this truly transformative vision,” she said in a statement.
But even at its present size, the plan would be a major break with the past. “We’re finally going to see comprehensive climate legislation outside of Congress for the first time,” said Leah Stokes, political scientist at the University of California at Santa Barbara.
In an effort to address the various sources of gases that trap heat in the United States, the plan encompasses a dizzying array of climate change solutions. Here are some of the key suggestions that could play the greatest role in reducing emissions.
How Biden’s infrastructure plan would cut emissions
The climate ideas in the American Jobs Plan are an extension of Biden’s campaign promise to make reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the United States a top priority of his presidency.
Transportation is the first big plank of the plan. The sector has become the main source of carbon emissions in the country. To change that, the Biden proposal would accelerate the transition to electric vehicles by funding states and the private sector to build 500,000 electric vehicle chargers – a plan originally introduced by Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY).
It will also build on America’s bailout plan to revive the nation’s troubled public transportation system, which will help keep cars littering the streets. US $ 85 billion will be used to repair existing buses, light rail vehicles, and other transit lines. However, not all transportation investments in the plan will be explicitly environmentally friendly. Part of the funds will also be used for the maintenance of roads and highways.
For the second largest contributor to the US carbon footprint – the energy sector – the plan proposes setting a standard for clean electricity. The policy would oblige utilities across the country to increase their share of clean electricity. Coupled with the expanded 10-year renewable energy tax credits in the plan, this would be an important tool in moving the nation towards Biden’s goal of 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2035.
“This is something that Biden has been talking about since campaigning and taking office, but it’s really important that it’s at the heart of the plan,” said Stokes, who recently co-authored Evergreen Action and Data for Progress Explain how the Clean Electricity Standard can be adopted through budget voting.
Another heading of the plan is a huge increase in research and development investment to promote new clean energy technologies and make existing technologies more efficient. “The American Jobs Plan is the largest increase in our non-defense research and development spending at the federal level,” said Biden during his speech in Pittsburgh.
Typically only $ 8 billion went into the federal energy research budget, as David Hart, a professor of public policy at George Mason University who focuses on energy innovations, explained on Twitter. The plan provides $ 35 billion to research climatological breakthroughs and $ 15 billion to pilot projects in critical areas from energy storage to hydrogen.
This research investment reflects a Biden philosophy that is embedded throughout the plan: bringing innovation back to America and shortening the path to a clean energy future. Throughout the plan and speech, Biden also said that increasing R&D investment is essential for the US to outperform China. “The rest of the world is approaching and is rapidly approaching. We cannot let this go on, ”he said.
Another issue that von Biden’s campaign has expanded to include this plan is racial and economic justice. Specific measures include calls for funding to improve transport access for communities that have historically been cut off from cities due to unfair urban planning. Julian Brave NoiseCat, vice president of policy and strategy at Data for Progress, highlighted some of the other important proposals for environmental justice.
Environmental regulations such as replacing every lead pipe in the country, investing in and retrofitting public and affordable housing, and channeling 40% of the investment to disadvantaged communities are included – evidence of the movement’s impact.
– Julian Brave NoiseCat (@jnoisecat) March 31, 2021
The future of the plan in Congress
In the coming weeks, the Biden Plan will be subjected to lengthy negotiations in Congress. In his speech in Pittsburgh, Biden again committed to a bipartisan process and invited Republican members of Congress to debate in the Oval Office. But the Democrats are ready to pass the bill by budget vote, which only requires a narrow Democratic majority.
It will certainly be difficult to hold the democratic caucus together. “The process of drafting and passing an infrastructure bill and a pay structure, on which the White House, Senate and House agree, is expected to take the summer and into the fall,” reported Vox’s Ella Nilsen.
For climate lawyers, however, the Biden Plan is largely a good sign that the administration is committed to ensuring that climate solutions are at the center of the process.