Scientists on Monday welcomed the passage of US President Joe Biden’s “historic” climate law and called on other big emitters – namely the European Union – to follow suit and implement ambitious plans to cut emissions.
The law envisages investing an unprecedented $370 billion to cut US emissions by 40 percent by 2030 and should provide a launch pad for green investment and kick-start the transition to renewable energy in the world’s largest emitter.
It passed the Senate on Sunday night after months of arduous negotiations and only after Biden’s original proposal had been supplemented with a number of tax and energy provisions.
Michael Pahle of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research said the bill is particularly relevant to EU lawmakers who are about to adopt “the most ambitious climate policy in the world” in the form of the “Fit for 55” bloc. to plan.
“EU policy can only be economically and politically successful if major emitters and trading partners take similar measures,” he told the AFP news agency.
“Especially given the changing geopolitical landscape, cooperation between the US and the EU is crucial and the proposed law is an important factor contributing to this.”
The EU initiative, which aims to reduce emissions by 55 percent by 2030, does not yet have a set budget.
However, a recent assessment found that Member States would need to spend €350 billion more each year than they did between 2011 and 2020 to meet climate and energy targets.
Simon Lewis, professor of Global Chance Science at University College London, said the US law shows how lawmakers can push climate legislation while responding to voters’ near-term concerns about fuel price inflation.
“It’s really important that the world’s largest economy invests in climate and does so as part of a package to create jobs and a new, cleaner, greener economy,” Lewis told AFP.
“Part of that is an anti-inflation package. I think that shows the world how to pass climate policy, by tying it to things that really matter to ordinary people, to make sure it’s part of an overarching package to improve people’s lives.” “
– ‘Massive Rise’ –
The independent think tank Rhodium Group said the “historic and important” bill — officially the Inflation Reduction Act — would reduce US emissions by at least 31 percent by 2040 compared to 2005 levels.
However, it said that under favorable macroeconomic conditions, including ever-higher fossil fuel prices and cheap renewable energy, emissions could fall by 44 percent.
“The cost of living is partly because we didn’t get off fossil fuels soon enough,” Lewis said.
“This law means the transition away from fossil fuels will accelerate.”
Eric Beinhocker, director of the Institute of New Economic Thinking at the Oxford Martin School, said the law will lead to a “massive increase” in clean technologies and reduce the cost of renewable energy even further.
“This is especially important when the world suffers not only from the climate impact of fossil fuels, but also from their skyrocketing costs,” he told AFP.
The legislation provides millions to conserve forests and billions in tax credits to some of the country’s most polluting industries to accelerate their transition to greener technologies.
It almost didn’t happen, however, as the bill was delayed for months after Democrat Joe Manchin blocked Biden’s pricier Build Back Better infrastructure plan.
Pahle said a US failure to agree on an ambitious emissions-cutting plan would have been a “major detriment to the viability of the Paris Agreement.”
The 2015 accord calls on nations to work to limit global temperature rise to “well below” two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and sets a safer heating ceiling of 1.5C.
With just over 1.1°C of warming to date, the Earth is already being plagued by extreme weather conditions such as drought and storms, compounded by rising temperatures.
– just the beginning –
While acknowledging that the law represents a step forward, the scientists were quick to point out that it was far from perfect.
Michael Mann, director of Penn State’s Center for Science, Sustainability and Media, said the bill’s requirement to build new gas pipelines was “a step backwards.”
“It’s difficult to reconcile a promise to decarbonize our economy with a commitment to new fossil fuel infrastructure,” he said.
Radhika Khosla of Oxford University’s Smith School said only action at the global level could achieve the emissions cuts needed to stave off the worst effects of global warming.
“We are all feeling the effects of climate change,” she said.
“This summer alone, parts of the world as diverse as China, Britain and Tunisia experienced record-breaking, deadly heatwaves.
“Permanent change will require ambitious action from all of us, too,” she told AFP.
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