By Rachel Koning Beals
That’s an optimistic Ani Dasgupta, president and CEO of the World Resources Institute, commenting recently after U.S. Senate Democrats resurrected an all-but-dead spending bill that included major climate-change action.
Now, that bill , relabeled the Inflation Reduction Act from earlier incarnations as Build Back Better, faces a House vote Friday, where Democrats hold a small majority.
No Senate Republicans voted “yes” for the initiative that also included healthcare provisions and other spending, as GOP senators argued the measure wouldn’t address soaring inflation as advertised, but would sock Americans with higher taxes.
The energy and climate-focused incentives are peppered with rebates and tax credits that will directly impact households, from heat pumps, to appliance efficiency, to solar panels and electric vehicles /zigman2/quotes/203558040/lastsale TSLA -3.30% /zigman2/quotes/208911460/composite F +2.34%
Comments have poured in from environmental groups, renewable-energy giants, advocacy organizations for lowering energy bills and scores of others who generally embraced congressional progress. Other groups are sticking to their concerns that without a deep basket of energy offerings, including U.S.-drilled oil /zigman2/quotes/209723049/delayed CL00 +0.49% and natural gas /zigman2/quotes/210189548/delayed NG00 +1.23% , the nation remains vulnerable to power moves by Russia, China and the Middle East.
Some environmental groups said there remained too many concessions in the hard-fought legislation, which just a few weeks ago appeared dead in the water before a major compromise was struck with energy-state Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia. It’s true that the rewritten spending bill allows for a major fossil-fuel /zigman2/quotes/209723049/delayed CL00 +0.49% pipeline.
But WRI’s Dasgupta owns perhaps the earliest remarks that swelled with big-picture optimism.
He is willing to suggest that the U.S., with these efforts, resumes the course that matches so many of its economic rivals: to halve emissions as soon as 2030. A Joe Biden-led pledge, which is nonbinding, has said the U.S. can hit net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The European Union, China, Japan and South Korea have all announced ambitious near- and long-term climate targets.
Carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide concentrations are now more abundant in the earth’s atmosphere than any time in the last 800,000 years. These greenhouse gas emissions have increased the greenhouse effect and caused the earth’s surface temperature to rise, the EPA explains.
If simply measuring total emissions, China, the No. 2 economy, is the world’s No. 1 polluter. China generates around 30% of all global emissions, while the U.S., in second place, is responsible for almost 14%. India comes in at third.
However, when taking into account China’s large population, a per-capita measure of emissions moves China well down the list, below the U.S. and major Middle Eastern economies.
Observers have also said the U.S., as host to the deepest financial markets, might also lead when it comes to private-sector solutions for climate change , including leveling the playing field for investors when it comes to reporting climate risk and sustainability initiatives, as the SEC is pushing.
Dasgupta’s WRI is an influential body that has played a role in the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and at major summits, including when the 2015 Paris Climate accord was reached, and last year, when major nations and powerful private-sector interests met in Glasgow .
“Every corner of the country will benefit from this legislation, from farmers planting drought-resistant crops in America’s breadbasket, to new clean manufacturing jobs in the Rustbelt, to clean energy technology production in the South and West,” Dasgupta added.
Dasgupta, and others, made clear they see congressional efforts as only one lever the U.S. must pull if it wants to be among the international leaders bent on holding global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius, and ideally, 1.5 degrees.
“This legislation isn’t a panacea for climate change — and no bill ever will be,” he said. “U.S. states, cities and the private sector all need to step up their efforts for the U.S. to fulfill its climate targets and prove to the world that America stands by its word.”
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