A Climate Change Two-Fer: Big Climate-Focused Jobs Package And Kerry Goes to India and the UAE

Today the Biden administration unveils its American Jobs Plan and it is chock full of actions that will create jobs and address climate change and environmental justice issues — divided into three (out of four) buckets of improvements — (1) transportation; (2) homes, buildings, energy, and water;  and (3) research and manufacturing.  At the same time, the Wall Street Journal reported last night that Presidential Climate Envoy Kerry is traveling later this week to the United Arab Emirates and then on to India to push for greater pledges from both at the White House Climate Summit planned for Earth Day.

Why This Matters:  Climate policy is central to both the Biden foreign and domestic agendas.  Secretary Kerry is embarking on his second climate diplomacy swing in less than three weeks, pressing for greater cooperation and deeper cuts in greenhouse gas emissions by showing up on the doorsteps of key countries where there are points to score.  And for days, the administration has been hinting about their giant infrastructure jobs bill, but the huge role that climate change is playing in how the proposals will be carried out represents a huge paradigm shift from prior infrastructure efforts.  In the past infrastructure meant simply more highways, more dredging, and generally supported projects that were more likely to cause environmental degradation than repair it.  This plan is not your father’s Oldsmobile, as they say.

What’s Getting Cleaner and More Resilient

The Biden plan does the following:

  • It will double federal funding for public transit, buy down the repair backlog, and bring bus and rail service to new communities and neighborhoods, especially those that have been structurally excluded from resources and opportunity.
  • It will spark the electric vehicle revolution, building a network of 500,000 EV chargers, replacing 50,000 diesel transit vehicles, electrifying at least 20 percent of our yellow bus fleet, and helping consumers purchase the vehicles of tomorrow.
  • And, it will make our infrastructure more resilient to climate change, in addition to targeting 40 percent of the benefits of the climate and clean infrastructure investments to disadvantaged communities.
  • It will replace 100 percent of the nation’s lead pipes and service lines, and reduce lead exposure in 400,000 schools and childcare centers.
  • It will lay thousands of miles of transmission lines, making our electric grid more resilient and retrofit more than millions of homes and housing units making them more energy efficient.
  • And, it will cap hundreds of thousands of orphan oil and gas wells and abandoned mines, putting hundreds of thousands of people to work in communities that have been affected by the market-based transition to clean energy.
  • And, the plan will support clean energy manufacturing projects in coal communities and reinvest in our industrial heartland by providing incentives for companies – large and small – to locate manufacturing jobs there.

And with respect to resilience, the administration notes that in 2020, the United States was hit with 22 separate billion-dollar weather and climate disasters that cost $95 billion in damages to homes, businesses, and public infrastructure.  They promise that “every dollar spent on rebuilding our infrastructure during the Biden administration will be used to prevent, reduce, and withstand the impacts of the climate crisis.”  And they promise to “restore nature-based infrastructure – our lands, forests, wetlands, watersheds, and coastal and ocean resources,” while calling on Congress to “invest in protection from extreme wildfires, coastal resilience to sea-level rise and hurricanes, support for agricultural resources management and climate-smart technologies, and the protection and restoration of major land and water resources.”

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