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US climate protection? The answer is... maybe

President Joe Biden had originally set out to finally introduce comprehensive climate protection measures in the US. But internal party squabbles prevented his program. Now there is a surprising agreement on a slimmed-down package - but is it any good?

The U.S. is struggling over climate protection measures, and had even pulled out of the Paris Agreement under Donald Trump (Image: Pixabay)The U.S. is struggling over climate protection measures, and had even pulled out of the Paris Agreement under Donald Trump (Image: Pixabay)

Joe Biden does not have an easy life. He has the task of governing a deeply divided America, where Democrats and Republicans are irreconcilably opposed. When there is further trouble within his own ranks, governing becomes almost impossible for him.

This is what happened with the 'Build Back Better' reform program, which provided two trillion dollars for comprehensive renovations of the infrastructure, energy system and healthcare. Its passing ultimately failed because of Joe Manchin, Democratic senator from West Virginia - and closely tied to the coal industry in his state. Due to the small majority, his approval would have been essential to get the package of bills through the Senate (as Windfair reported).

The follow-up package, a slimmed-down version of BBB, was on the back burner for a long time, too. Again, it was Manchin who - instead of climate protection - wanted to see the fight against inflation on the agenda. US political experts no longer saw any chance of agreement, even though Biden urgently needs a domestic political success in view of the approaching midterm elections in November.

Then, last week, the turnaround: apparently, the Democrats had been discussing behind closed doors for so long that Manchin finally gave up his resistance and announced his agreement to the current program entitled 'Inflation Reduction Act of 2022'. After all, there's 'inflation' in the title now. Nearly $300 billion is to go toward debt reduction, as well as $369 billion to be invested in energy security in the coming years - the highest climate funding ever in the United States.

The US urgently needs to modernize its infrastructure (Image: Pixabay).

However, after initial jubilation - even though the bill has not yet been officially voted on - doubts quickly arose as to whether this slimmed-down version would benefit climate action at all. But energy and climate modelers have scrutinized the bill's 725 pages and have now concluded that it will make US climate goals achievable.

"It’s a historic step, no doubt about it," Marshall Shepherd, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Georgia and former president of the American Meteorological Society, told Science. "It really does a lot to enhance the transition to a renewable energy economy."

Depending on how it's calculated, US CO2 emissions could drop 35% to 40% by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. The package of measures also includes subsidies for renewable energy and tax cuts for electric vehicles. As part of implementation, up to 1.5 million jobs could be created and thousands of premature deaths from air pollution could be prevented, especially in disadvantaged communities.

"What we find is that the ‘Inflation Reduction Act,’ if it is enacted, should get the US within shouting distance of the NDC commitment, but it won’t get the US all the way there," Anand Gopal warned E&E News. He is executive director of strategy and policy at Energy Innovation, who had studied the package in more detail. The NDV commitment is the US nationally determined contribution under the Paris Agreement. “So the administration does need to lean in also on executive [actions], and states need to lean in on state actions in order to bridge that gap. But it’s now doable.”

If, indeed, the bill will pass.

Katrin Radtke
USA, climate protection, Joe Biden, Joe Manchin, government, law, package, agreement, Paris Climate Agreement, slimmed down

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