Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act, the surprising resurrection of climate change legislation negotiated over the past year, and now signed into law by President Biden on Tuesday, August 16.
This is the largest climate legislation ever passed in the US, investing $369 billion into climate and energy solutions, in addition to health care cost reductions and revenue generation to address inflation totaling $739 billion. These investments are estimated to reduce US greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030, nearing President Biden’s goal of 50% and our Paris Climate Agreement commitment. While this bill provides real and significant progress that we need, it also includes significant compromises that will prolong the climate emergency and harm frontline communities. While some revenue is raised by taxing corporate polluters, this bill also continues to protect and expand oil and gas extraction and invests in false solutions that don’t help achieve climate justice.
What do you need to know about the Inflation Reduction Act?
- This bill, while significant for US climate action long-stalled by fossil fuel interests, falls far short of both the demands of science and justice.
The science is clear that we must end fossil fuel extraction today to protect lives both today and tomorrow. Those crafting language away from public input sought a “realistic” bill extending our nation’s fossil fuel dependency, rather than addressing the reality of climate change. Climate impacts already devastate the districts of every member of Congress no matter their vote, whether Kentucky floods or California droughts, from the Gulf Coast to eyewitness accounts here in the midwest. Many strong investments are included in this funding package to advance climate solutions, but may be inaccessible to those most impacted by climate injustice, and scarcely shifts the systems perpetuating the climate crisis by enabling expanded fossil fuel infrastructure and accounting.
- The Inflation Reduction Act developed from years of negotiation, after the Building Back Better Plan failed in the US Senate after its passage in the House in November 2021.
The Building Back Better Plan was a reconciliation with Congress of President Biden’s earlier $2.3 trillion American Jobs Act with some pieces of that passed through Infrastructure funding. Each iteration removed significant climate solutions that would have achieved greater climate justice impacts, whether further infrastructure investing directly in building resilient communities with access to safe and affordable housing, public transit systems, sustainable schools and businesses, or education and engagement for communities to directly shape and participate in climate action. Some modest provisions remain and former proposals that we will continue to fight for in new iterations, toward more climate justice centered provisions, an end to fossil fuels, and truly groundbreaking, systems changing proposals that advocates around the world are calling for.
- The real work begins now! Success will be greatly impacted by local implementation
Passage of the Infrastructure Reduction Act is only the first step to investing billions of dollars in climate solutions that will go through state and local agencies, businesses and nonprofits and the wide variety of ways to effectively implement solutions that are shaped by and responsive to community need. Strong solutions can be weakened by inaccessible grant processes, and dangers can be averted by diligent community oversight preventing harmful permitting processes that advance false solutions. This bill language will continue to take form as funding is distributed across the nation, and local leaders and everyday advocates will play a powerful role in determining how their communities will benefit or be harmed by IRA provisions. There are significant grants that will go through status quo processes that communities can fight to improve and ensure funding meets its intended purpose. There are few guidelines, safeguards, or accountability in many of the investments that communities can be vigilant to call out and correct when misused for corporate gain, and when false solutions worsen our climate crisis. If you are reading this, you can stay engaged in shaping how climate action rolls out in your state, ensure that frontline communities have access to funding and do not continue to be sacrificed or lip service to environmental justice provisions within this bill.
- We will build on this to reduce harm and achieve greater success
Although this bill received highly partisan support from Congress, many of the provisions are widely supported by communities across the country. Residents must continue to speak out and pressure their elected officials to fight for more climate solutions that are centered in frontline communities. This bill is a generation overdue, and decades of fighting for even modest climate action. Many of these investments are worth celebrating, including the fact that a compromise could be negotiated at all by keeping discussions alive and not kicking the can another year, but with eyes wide open to communities who continue to be sacrificed and are speaking out, who are directly harmed by continuing fossil fuel infrastructure, and global climate impacts and commitments we still have so far to go to address. How will you exercise your hard fought right to vote to hold your elected officials accountable and demand further climate action? Climate impacts cross partisan lines, we must hold all elected officials accountable to the experiences we share and solutions our communities demand. We must listen to young people whose entire futures are being shaped by our actions today and know we can do better, we can do more, and must do it now. The IRA is a small step in the necessary action to end the climate emergency. We must resist a false sense of security in the Inflation Reduction Act and use it as a catalyst for greater action towards climate justice. Follow Climate Generation to stay engaged with our coalition work and take action to advance true climate solutions.
Sarah Goodspeed (she/her)
Senior Policy Manager at Climate Generation