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Last chance for Congress to avoid big climate costs

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After decades of debate, the Biden administration and Congress are finally ready to deal with the climate crisis. The bipartisan infrastructure bill and the Build Back Better Act would make critical investments in technology and infrastructure to bring us much closer to the administration’s goal of halving US emissions by 2030. These investments would accelerate progress on technologies essential to U.S. leadership in sustainability, innovation and a low-carbon future, and make our country much more prosperous, competitive and secure.

It is almost certainly the last and the best chance for congressional action to avoid the devastating effects on the climate in the United States. The UN’s United in Science 2021 report on climate change and natural systems highlights that we are at a potentially irreversible tipping point towards catastrophic disruption and economic loss. Even before this report and the fires that raged this year, storm flooding and worsening droughts, well over 60% of Americans said climate change was impacting their communities and the government American was doing too little to remedy it. A growing majority of Americans, including Republicans, are now in favor of more government action on climate change. Young people around the world feel scared and betrayed by the failure to tackle climate change.

The economic and human costs of climate change are becoming unacceptably high. Members of Congress should have no doubt that investments in clean energy, resilient infrastructure and American skills will pay off for their constituents. In 2018, country-specific estimates found that only India faces higher total costs from climate change than US insurance company Swiss Re predicted in 2021, according to which to leave emissions and climate change on their current trajectory will reduce global economic output by up to 18% by 2050. Annual output fell “only” 15 percent on average during the calamitous Great Depression of the 1930s. Without more aggressive action to reduce emissions , by 2050, climate-related losses will reach at least $ 23 trillion each year. Twenty-three federal agencies, including the United States Department of Defense, have just released detailed analyzes of the impact of climate change on their operations and on all aspects of American life, and on their plans to try to tackle them. damage.

Meanwhile, the states that are home to two senators whose votes are critical to the passage of the two bills, Arizona and West Virginia, are already and will be hit hard. Six counties in Arizona are at risk of becoming uninhabitable, and with more than 90 percent of the state in severe drought, its water supplies are already under threat. West Virginia faces increasingly extreme floods (like its “millennial” floods) and drought (like in 2019) with serious risks to people and infrastructure. West Virginia is also one of the poorest and most carbon dependent states in the country, and Arizona one of the hottest and driest; their residents and businesses deserve federal support to switch to renewable energy and seize new economic opportunities.

In fact, Americans in all states, not just these two, are at risk of not only their homes being damaged by climate impacts, but also hospitals, water and sewer systems, electricity, public buildings, and more. roads, roadblocks, airports, police stations and local businesses.

The climate-related proposals in the Build Back Better legislation and the bipartisan infrastructure bill would cost between $ 500 billion and $ 550 billion over several years, stimulate at least $ 1 trillion in additional private investment, and provide a substantial down payment. on reducing US emissions and costs related to climate change. . They would also create and train Americans for millions of badly needed new green jobs.

The proposals include around $ 320 billion in tax credits for commercial investments in solar, wind and other renewable energies (e.g. nuclear and hydrogen), resources for a larger U.S. power grid. smarter and more resilient, better batteries and more charging stations to develop American electric vehicles. (EV) and incentives for EV buyers. These worker training policies and efforts will significantly boost the competitiveness of the United States, including with China. Billions more would help fight forest fires and weather hazards, and make water, other essential infrastructure, agriculture and communities (including in rural areas) less vulnerable. The administration is also working to remove obstacles – to make it faster and easier to use federal lands for wind and solar installations, and to get approval for such investments.

Finally, the reconciliation package also includes funding for a civilian climate body to employ thousands of young people to face the threat of climate change. It would be modeled on FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps.

It looks like the Biden administration’s $ 150 billion Clean Electricity Performance Program (CEPP) – which would reward power companies that use more clean energy and penalize those that don’t – will not be included in it. the final invoice. This is a significant setback. But the new package, combined with the rapidly falling cost of renewables, will still allow the United States to make major strides towards meeting Biden’s climate goals.

Studies show that reducing U.S. emissions by 50% by 2030 and avoiding the worst costs of climate change is both achievable and affordable, if Congress and government agencies at all levels act now and private investors innovate. quickly.

This is a critical moment. The United States has the ability to lead the world in the November COP26 negotiations and beyond on a smooth but swift transition to a resilient, low-carbon future. But the time to do it is running out. Congress should agree to smart, affordable investments now to avert the massive impacts of climate change, rebuild our strategic advantage, boost U.S. growth and productivity when it’s needed most, and prepare Americans for the right jobs in the world. the future. The costs of inaction are simply too high.

Anne Pence has served as the State Department’s G8 and International Policy Advisor in the Republican and Democratic administrations, including on an interagency team tasked with analyzing, formulating, negotiating and implementing policy and US climate change and energy programs. She was also a senior policy advisor to the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and an economist to the USAID mission.

Mark Nichols is the chairman of strategic consulting firm Seven Summits, specializing in energy, infrastructure and national security. He is also a director of SeaSpire Advisors, an investment bank, and senior advisor to Infinity Photon, a solar developer in Brazil.


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