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Biden plan pledges ‘largest effort to combat climate change in US history’

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Biden plan pledges ‘largest effort to combat climate change in US history’

Joe Biden

Biden plan pledges ‘largest effort to combat climate change in US history’

Hundreds of billions to be given to clean energy, electric vehicles and flood defenses, officials say – but some key parts left out

Joe Biden with energy secretary Jennifer Granholm in September.

The legislation has been significantly reduced following objections raised by Manchin and Sinema over its scope – Biden needs every Senate Democrat to vote for the bill to overcome unified Republican opposition to it – but the remaining framework still represents the first, and largest, major attempt by the US to tackle the unfolding climate crisis.

“It’s a historic day for people and the planet,” said Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters. “Congress must swiftly pass the Build Back Better Act and send it to President Biden to sign into law.”

On Thursday, Biden will travel to Europe for crucial UN climate talks to be held in Scotland. The US president has said it would be “very, very positive” for the reconciliation bill to pass before the Cop26 summit, in order to bolster American credibility and help convince other countries to do more to address the catastrophic wildfires, floods and heatwaves increasingly being unleashed by global heating.

This effort has been repeatedly stymied by the objections of Manchin, a West Virginia senator with deep ties to the coal industry who managed to strike out of the bill a system that would have phased out fossil fuels from America’s electricity grid. This plan was responsible for a third of the emissions cuts in the original version of the legislation, according to analysts.

The new framework does not include fees paid by oil and gas producers when they emit methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Manchin was also opposed to this fee in the original bill and rejected a proposal to include a tax or price on carbon emissions. The Environmental Protection Agency is, however, poised to regulate methane emissions through its existing powers.

These omissions mean that the legislation’s framework represents a historic investment in clean energy but doesn’t include any mechanisms to reduce fossil fuel usage or even cut subsidies flowing to the oil, coal and gas companies that have caused the climate crisis.

“Given the prime opportunity to cancel billions of dollars in domestic subsidies for oil and gas polluters, the president and congressional leadership have rolled over,” said Mitch Jones, policy director of Food and Water Watch. “A climate plan that fails to directly confront the oil and gas industry cannot possibly be considered meaningful.”

Climate experts have, however, pointed out the bill, if passed, would represent a major step forward in acting on the climate crisis, while making clear that further emissions cuts will be needed to avoid the US, and the world, spiraling into a barely livable climatic state.

Leah Stokes, a climate policy expert at the University of California, Santa Barbara, said it would be “great news” if the legislation passes because “the climate math is brutal”.

“Even if we are lucky enough to get this bill over the finish line, we need more next year,” she tweeted. “The climate clock is ticking.”

Topics

  • Joe Biden
  • Climate crisis
  • US domestic policy
  • US Congress
  • Joe Manchin
  • US politics
  • news
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Published at Thu, 28 Oct 2021 15:41:58 +0000

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/oct/28/biden-spending-plan-billions-climate-crisis

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