The Senate’s weekend passage of a $369 billion package of spending to fight climate change is drawing cheers from environmental advocates and calls for the bill’s swift adoption in the House of Representatives.
The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, which also includes tax increases on corporations and health care spending, was approved on a 51-50 vote on Sunday, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the deciding vote in a deadlocked Senate.
The revival of the bill – a drastically scaled-down version of a $2.2 trillion package of climate and social spending sought by President Joe Biden and passed by the House last year – came after an unexpected reversal last month from Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, whose opposition had previously appeared to doom climate action in the upper chamber.
“Ten days ago, when I thought the climate provisions in the IRA were dead, my heart was broken,” Sen. Michael Bennet, a Colorado Democrat who backed the bill, wrote on Twitter on Monday. “I didn’t know how to look my daughters in the eye and tell them we were once again going to do nothing about this urgent threat. Today, my heart is full.”
The compromise bill includes some bitter pills for environmental groups to swallow, such as requirements for the federal government to expand offshore drilling and regulatory reforms that could speed up pipelines and other oil and gas projects. But its tax credits and subsidies for clean electricity generation, electric vehicles and other technologies could help reduce total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by about 40% by 2030, according to independent estimates.
Those projections roughly align with pledges under the 2015 Paris Agreement that are consistent with an average global temperature rise of about 2.1 to 2.4 degrees Celsius by 2100. That’s a far less dangerous scenario than the 3 to 4 degrees of global warming that once seemed likely without action.
Without further action, however, even 2 to 2.5 degrees of temperature rise will lead to significantly greater harm – in the form of deadly heat, drought, famine, sea level rise, extreme weather and other impacts – than the 1.5 degree target endorsed by many scientists and environmental activists. Scientists warned in 2018 that achieving that target would require “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society,” but since then global emissions have continued to rise.
U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper, a Colorado moderate who reportedly played a key role in brokering the compromise with Manchin, said in a news release that its passage will allow the U.S. to “help lead the planet into a clean energy economy.”
“The Great Transition is here!” Hickenlooper said. “We’ll reduce carbon emissions 40% by the end of the decade. We’ll save Colorado families hundreds of dollars on their energy bills and health care costs. All while reducing the deficit.”
Elise Jones, director of the Boulder-based Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, cited research showing that the bill’s incentives for EVs, rooftop solar panels and clean-heating technology could help a typical U.S. household save up to $1,800 per year on energy costs.
“We urge the House to quickly move to final passage, and hope that President Biden will immediately sign the bill,” Jones said in a statement. “We look forward to working with state and local leaders across our region to implement the bill and maximize its benefits.”
Democratic Rep. Joe Neguse of Lafayette, a member of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, said in a statement that the IRA is the “most significant climate legislation enacted in our country’s history.”
“The Senate’s passage of the Inflation Reduction Act is truly historic,” he said. “I look forward to supporting this bill in the House of Representatives, and continue to be hopeful for its swift enactment.”