“The U.S. has a reputation… for having emitted more green gases greenhouse gases historically, so they have a greater responsibility in the future to be reducing more.” That’s what Tracy Raczek, former Senior Climate Advisor to then-U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon told me on my podcast. She should know, because she was a primary force behind what became the Paris Accord.
Hoesung Lee, Chair of the IPCC, says in the press release accompanying the report’s release that, “The innovations in this report, and advances in climate science that it reflects, provide an invaluable input into climate negotiations and decision-making.” The IPCC report definitively stated that this is a man-made problem: “The report shows that emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities are responsible for approximately 1.1°C of warming since 1850-1900.”
The report insists that: “unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to close to 1.5°C or even 2°C will be beyond reach,” the press release stated. One point five to 2°C is the point at which the dangers from climate change increase exponentially according to scientists.
How do the current infrastructure bills address it?
The devil’s in the details. What’s funded or incentivized with tax credits and the like is one thing; what’s enforced with tracking consequences for inaction is another. Industry and policymakers need both carrots and sticks to drive meaningful and swift action.
In terms of climate change mitigation, the current bills provide, for example:
· $7.5 billion for electric vehicle infrastructure, to increase adoption of EVs and reduce use of emissions-generating the traditional internal combustion engine vehicles.
· $105 billion for public transit, also to reduce cars on the road and the emissions that accompany them.
· $17 billion to reduce emissions at ports and airports
· $60 billion to expand clean energy transmission, expedite the smart grid, and carbon capture and hydrogen technologies.
· $50 billion to increase climate resilience of infrastructure to protect communities. Communities and the federal government have spent billions rebuilding after extreme weather events, expenses the funding allocations in these bills are designed to reduce by strengthening and increasing the resilience of the infrastructure.
· $16 billion to plug oil wells leaking methane
Plus, billions to establish a clean energy standard, which has been renamed the Clean Electricity Payment Program to increase Congressional support. Senator Tina Smith of Minnesota told NPR that it’s “paying utilities to add clean power,’ therefore, allowing utility rates to be stable.
But will Congress consider the IPCC findings in voting for infrastructure?
Will the urgency and scientific findings of the new U.N. IPCC report inform the decision making and climate negotiations in the U.S. Congress on the pending $1.2 trillion and $3.5 trillion infrastructure bills? Will Congress consider long-term impacts or just short-term political postures?
The public supports these investments, according to current polling. A Harvard CAPS-Harris poll found that 70% of Americans support the $1.2 trillion so-called “hard infrastructure” bill passed in the Senate with strong bipartisan support (19 Republicans voted with the Democrats). The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication’s poll “found 67% support among registered voters for a ‘major investment in the nation’s infrastructure.’”
Raczek also said Biden’s infrastructure plan creates strong jobs growth. “The fact that the Biden-Harris plan plans to sink no less than $2 trillion dollars into infrastructure and energy, that’s a fair jobs plan.”
“When you look at greening infrastructure, greening cement, greening houses, retrofitting houses, truly transitioning our entire economy, you have an incredible job opportunity,” she added, “this is a middle-income job boom possibility. This is why I think the Biden-Harris climate plan is really a jobs plan.”