After voting March 10 to approve the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan, much needed aid has been passed around the United States to nearly 75% of the population to help supplement the ongoing burdens of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Passage of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 marked one of the first major legislative achievements under the new Biden-Harris Administration, but some elected officials believe that more action is needed to get the economy going and aid in long-term recovery.
There is an opportunity to do this, and it can come in the form of climate action.
As part of the President’s campaign message, a $2 trillion accelerated investment in fighting climate change has already been pushed, with a promise to deploy those resources in the President’s first term, but how this will play out remains to be unseen.
An investment in fighting climate change has the potential to create hundreds of thousands of jobs that will last for years, according to the Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), which can generate more than $66 billion in GDP each year. This would result in $330 billion in economic activity.
These are jobs that would support sustainable wages and help bring the U.S. economy out of the severe recession. Based on the findings, Texas would benefit with climate action initiatives the most, with the potential of more than 72,000 new jobs created.
By building back stronger and more sustainably, the economy can help protect current and future generations “by investing in solutions that simultaneously address the urgent climate crisis, create good-paying jobs and build healthier communities,” according to the Environmental Defense Fund.
While stimulus money alone won’t meet all of the climate goals, especially those aligned with the Paris Climate Agreement, shooting to achieve a 100% clean economy in the U.S. no later than 2050 can reduce the effects of a changing climate in the near term and help buy down the costs of longer-term reductions.
Many investments have already taken shape, as the belief of climate change posing a threat to society continues to grow among publics. According to Pew Research Center, most Americans, about 62%, believe that climate change is affecting their local community, either a great deal or some.
Majorities of Americans believe that not enough is being done for key aspects of the environment, from protecting water or air quality to reducing the effects of climate change. Additionally, approximately 70% believe the U.S. should focus on developing alternative sources of energy over expansion of fossil fuel sources.
According to James Mazurek, managing director of North American Utilities Strategy, there are many avenues for new projects to advance economic growth and the transition to a greener economy, including some of the following:
Rebuilding U.S. Infrastructure
A Carbon-Free Power Sector
Upgrading Buildings and Promoting Energy Efficiency
Others include initiatives toward clean energy research and development in order to
accelerate innovation and further investment on a huge scale, as well as toward the automotive transition, such as the electrification of vehicles and transportation, implementing charging stations throughout the U.S., enhancing U.S. vehicle fuel economy standard and more.
The promise of equitable economic opportunities across communities, which was a promise in the Biden campaign to not leave out communities affected by the energy transition, would need direct investments to ensure disadvantaged communities receive at least 40% of benefits. With every measure, there are economic, environmental, social and technical benefits from these different solutions.
The administration has gotten off to a good start, with many promises of investment and one of the first bills passed by Congress on energy policy in nearly a decade, the Energy Act of 2020.
Dr. Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, said clean energy needs to be put at the heart of stimulus plans to counter the coronavirus crisis, but to also lead in accelerating the energy transition away from carbon emissions.
“Large-scale investment to boost the development, deployment and integration of clean energy technologies should be a central part of governments’ plans, because it will bring the twin benefits of stimulating economies and accelerating clean energy transitions,” Birol said.
“The progress this will achieve in transforming countries’ energy infrastructure won’t be temporary – it can make a lasting difference to our future.”
This can be addressed by pursuing many of the paths listed, which in turn can create jobs, reduce energy costs and help the environment long-term.
Reductions in emissions will only happen if governments, companies and people alike heed the call and fulfill commitments to climate action.
Given the circumstances of the pandemic, we can use this opportunity to step up climate ambitions; to help accelerate climate change goals and build back better and stronger than before.