With each passing day, the planet warms and the window for advancing urgently-needed climate legislation narrows. As the United States celebrates our independence this July, we can also establish ourselves as a world leader in the fight against the climate crisis – the ultimate act of patriotism and duty to the country.
After more than a year’s worth of missed opportunities, this summer has ushered in a make-or-break opportunity for the US Senate to pass the $555 billion climate and clean energy jobs package from the House-passed Build Back Better Act. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer must put climate at the top of the agenda and work to pass a budget reconciliation package by Independence Day, while Democrats still hold the majority.
The climate and jobs package would put the country on a path to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 50% below peak levels by 2030, which is roughly the pace that scientists say the whole world must follow to keep the Earth from warming more than 2.7 F. Experts warn that, beyond this threshold, the threat of catastrophic climate events will grow immensely.
Passing the climate and clean energy jobs provisions of Build Back Better is our best chance to achieve the necessary reductions and avert climate disaster; we simply cannot wait any longer. If Democrats lose control of Congress following the midterm elections this fall, hope for meaningful climate action at the federal level will be quashed. Conversely, if the Senate follows the House’s lead and sends this legislation to the President’s desk, it would mark the largest-ever federal investment in clean energy and usher in a new era for our country’s energy system.
Americans want to see this action. A Pew Center poll in January found that 69% of Americans favor federal action towards carbon neutrality by 2050. The climate package would have sweeping impacts beyond reducing 5.2 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. It would spur inherently deflationary clean energy projects, help strengthen energy security and national security, create millions of jobs, improve the health of communities, and lower U.S. energy expenditures by $67 billion dollars per year, saving US households $300 per year.
The bulk of the funding – around $320 billion – would go to providing tax credits for installing residential and commercial solar power, retrofitting buildings to be more energy-efficient, and purchasing electric vehicles. These provisions alone would mark the largest climate investment in our nation’s history, setting the course to meet our greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets while creating millions of good-paying jobs, reducing energy costs for consumers, advancing environmental justice, investing in climate resilient housing and community infrastructure, and strengthening our economy.
As Americans face historically high prices at the gas pump, it’s also critical that we advance our country’s energy independence and reduce our reliance on foreign oil. The Biden Administration has already demonstrated a willingness to strengthen our domestic clean energy industry by invoking the Defense Production Act (DPA) to spur manufacturing of solar technology on American soil. Build Back Better would build on this momentum, doing even more to jump-start domestic manufacturing of clean energy equipment, including wind turbines and solar panels.
Key to Build Back Better is the protection and inclusion of low-income and historically disadvantaged communities. The bill would implement a tax credit for 30 percent off the costs of solar projects, plus an additional 10% to 20% tax credit for renewable energy systems located in or serving low-income communities. Crucially, the solar tax credit would be made refundable or direct pay allowing everyone, including non-taxable entities like cities, non-profit organizations, Tribes, and schools, regardless of their federal income tax bill, to access the tax credit. These provisions allow more Americans to directly reap the benefits of clean energy.
The overwhelming positive response to President Biden’s DPA announcement from the American people, energy industry, environmental advocates, corporate leaders, and stock market this past week clearly signals that the future is in clean energy. If Majority Leader Schumer can get this transformative legislation passed by the 4th of July, he will secure his place in history at this pivotal moment for the United States of America. It’s the patriotic thing to do.
A veteran of the US Army, Kevin Johnson is co-founder of CleanCapital, Board Director of the Environmental Defense Action Fund and American Resilience Project .
Odette Mucha is Federal Liaison at Vote Solar and former analyst at the White House and US Department of Energy.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own, and do not necessarily reflect those held by pv magazine.
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