The Biden administration passed a $1-trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal in November 2021 with three main goals: to create clean energy jobs, make the U.S. more resilient to climate change and advance environmental justice. The climate crisis has been a major talking point for this administration since its election, and this bill is the latest and greatest action taken thus far.
What does the bill mean for fighting climate change? Can it aid the United States in creating a more sustainable future? Here’s a quick breakdown of the bill’s contents and how they might play out.
Where the $1 Trillion Is Going
Out of the $1 trillion attached to the infrastructure bill, the following amounts are going toward notable climate-related causes and projects:
- $50 billion for climate resilience and weatherization in response to the record-breaking natural disaster damage caused in 2021
- $66 billion to expand public rail transit and integrate zero-emissions vehicles into public transportation
- $65 billion for clean energy grid investments
- $55 billion to expand access to clean drinking water
- $25 billion and $17 billion to airport and seaport infrastructure, respectively
- $21 billion to clean superfund and brownfield sites and cap abandoned oil and gas wells
- $7.5 billion to build a national EV charging station network
The remainder of the $1 trillion will go toward efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase funding for environmental groups, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Army Corps of Engineers and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
These organizations help U.S. citizens forecast, prepare and recover from natural disasters.
Natural disasters have become more frequent and severe in recent years, so the additional funding for these organizations will be vital for protecting vulnerable communities. The bill also works in conjunction with many federal climate adaptation plans in addressing the greatest climate threats in various locations throughout the U.S.
Another notable act that will see significant improvements from the infrastructure bill is the Clean Water Act, which restricts waste disposal into navigable waters to ensure a clean supply. The bill seeks to eliminate lead pipes and remove dangerous chemicals from waterways, which includes heightened disposal restrictions.
The bill’s emphasis on emergency preparedness, clean water and improved transportation is a welcome sight. However, the efforts to reduce emissions fall short of expectations. There’s too much emphasis on resiliency and not enough focus on proactive measures. Here are the main reasons why the bill isn’t sufficient enough to help Americans fight climate change.
Infrastructure Bill Won’t Cut Enough Emissions
The Infrastructure bill places a heavy emphasis on reducing emissions from transportation, as it seeks to accelerate the transition towards EVs with a nationwide public transit system. Old trains and buses will be replaced with new sustainable transit vehicles. Roads and bridges will also get overhauled, making cities cleaner and safer for everyone.
Another method to reduce emissions outlined in the bill is to clean, reclaim or cap “legacy pollution” in abandoned mines and fuel wells throughout the country. Millions of Americans live within just a few miles of abandoned sites, so a widespread cleanup is necessary to advance environmental justice.
However, revamping the public transit system and neutralizing abandoned energy sites isn’t enough to meet the Biden administration’s goals. Just a week before passing the bill, Biden attended the COP26 UN Climate Conference and pledged to reduce domestic emissions by 50% below 2005’s average by 2030.
The administration no doubt had Biden’s pledge in mind when signing the infrastructure bill. Even so, independent studies show it won’t impact U.S. greenhouse gas emissions much.
One such study from the REPEAT Project estimates that the bill will only reduce 58 million metric tons of emissions, which makes up a small fraction of the required emissions to reach the 50% reduction goal.
Other projections from the Center for American Progress and the office of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer reveal a similar outcome: just 6% of the Biden administration’s emissions will come from the infrastructure bill. So, where will the other 94% come from?
The real star of the show is the Build Back Better Act, which the house successfully passed in November 2021. The $1 trillion infrastructure bill must work with the BBBA to meet the Biden administration’s emissions commitment.
Infrastructure Bill Needs BBBA
The same projections from Schumer’s office and the CAP show that the BBBA will reduce 14 times the amount of the infrastructure bill’s estimated emissions. The BBBA devotes $555 billion directly toward slicing the nation’s emissions in half, primarily through clean energy tax credits for homeowners and builders. Here are some notable incentives to boost green construction:
- 10% bonus for taxpayers who meet the domestic content requirement
- 10% bonus property located in an energy community (communities near former coal mines and power plants)
- 10% bonus for solar or wind property in low-income communities
- 20% bonus for solar or wind projects in low-income buildings
The BBBA also provided a plethora of tax credits for Eco-friendly actions like using alternative fuel, investing in facilities that generate clean electricity and using zero-emission nuclear power.
Other features of the BBBA include a Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund for low-cost sustainable construction projects and the Civilian Climate Corps to give millions of citizens the chance to solve issues in their communities. It’s the largest climate crisis investment in U.S. history and could be a vital part of the nation’s future.
The BBBA gives the American people more power to influence the reduction of emissions, while the infrastructure bill directs most of its funding toward federal programs and agencies.
The complementary nature of the BBBA and the infrastructure bill is obvious when you realize their fundamental differences. The bill focuses on resiliency and recovery efforts more than proactive ways to reduce emissions. On the other hand, the BBBA has comprehensive decarbonization strategies that get federal programs and the average citizen involved.
The U.S. Needs Both Bills
Although the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal will play an important role in improving disaster preparedness and creating more sustainable transportation options, it needs the Build Back Better Act to meet the Biden administration’s emissions goals. Both these initiatives pave the way for a healthier environment in the future.