Landmark climate legislation passed by the Senate after months of wrangling and weakening by pro-fossil fuel Democrats will do more harm than good, say frontline community groups calling Joe Biden declare a climate emergency.
If enacted, the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (IRA) would allocate $369 billion to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and invest in renewable energy sources – a historic amount that scientists estimate will lead to net reductions of 40% by 2030, compared to 2005 levels.
It would be the first major climate legislation to pass in the United States, which is historically responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than any other country.
But the bill makes a host of concessions to the fossil fuel industry, including imposing drilling and pipeline deals that will hurt communities from Alaska to Appalachia and the Gulf Coast and bind the United States. to global warming energy projects for decades to come.
“Once again, the only climate proposal on the table demands that communities in the southern Gulf bear the disproportionate cost of national interests bending the knee to dirty energy – adding to the debt this country owes the South,” said said Colette Pichon Battle of Taproot Earth Vision (formerly Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy).
“Solving the climate crisis requires phasing out fossil fuels, and the Cut Inflation Act simply doesn’t do that,” said Steven Feit, senior counsel at the Center for International Environmental Law (Ciel).
Overall, many environmental and community groups agree that while the deal will bring long-term global benefits by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it is not enough and sends communities already threatened by sea level rise, flooding and extreme heat to further misery.
The bill is a watered down version of Biden’s ambitious Build Back Better bill that was blocked by all Democratic-Republican and Conservative Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, both of whom received strong campaign support from industries. fossil fuels. The West Virginia Manchin, in particular, is known for his close personal ties to the coal industry.
“This was a backdoor take-it-or-leave-it deal between a coal baron and Democratic leaders in which any opposition from lawmakers or frontline communities was nullified. It was an inherently unfair process, an agreement that sacrifices so many communities and gets us nowhere where we need to go, yet is presented as life-saving legislation,” said Jean Su, director of the energy justice program at the Center for Biodiversity.
The IRA, which includes new tax provisions to pay for the historic $739 billion climate and healthcare spending package, has been touted as a huge win for the Biden administration as Democrats are preparing for a tough race in the midterm elections, when they risk losing control of both houses of Congress.
The spending package will accelerate the expansion of the clean energy industry, and while it includes historic funds to tackle air pollution and help consumers go green through grants for electric vehicles and home appliances, the vast majority of funds will benefit enterprises.
A cost-benefit analysis by the Climate Justice Alliance (CJA)which represents a wide range of urban and rural groups nationwide, concludes that the IRA’s strengths are outweighed by the bill’s weaknesses and the threats posed by the expansion of fossil fuels and unproven technologies such as carbon capture and hydrogen generation – which the bill encourages with billions of dollars in tax credits that will primarily benefit oil and gas.
“Climate investments should not be tied to corporate subsidies for fossil fuel development and unproven technologies that will poison our communities for decades,” said CJA member Juan Jhong-Chung of the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition. .
The IRA is a huge step towards creating a green capitalist industry that wrongly assumes the economic benefits will trickle down to low-income communities and households, Su added.
Many advocacy groups agree that the IRA should be the first step – not the final climate policy – for Biden, who has promised to be the country’s first climate president.
People Against Fossil Fuelsa national coalition of more than 1,200 organizations from all 50 states, recently delivered a petition with more than 500,000 signatures to the White House calling on Biden to declare a climate emergency, which would unlock new funds for urgent climate adaptation in the countries hard-hit communities and use executive action to stop the expansion of fossil fuels.
Siqiniq Maupin, executive director of Sovereign Iñupiat for a Living Arctic, said, “This new bill is genocide, there is no other way to put it. It’s a life or death situation and the longer we act like the world isn’t on fire around us, the worse our burns will be. Biden has the power to prevent that, to mitigate the damage.