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US Senate passes the nation’s first ever climate legislation

Getting the Inflation Reduction Act passed is one of Joe Biden’s most impactful moves as President yet. It will seek to avert global climate catastrophe by drastically reducing US greenhouse emissions, but also lower prescription drug costs for citizens, and increase taxes paid by large corporations.

Environmentalists, climate activists, and social justice warriors rejoice, because this week is starting out with some fantastic news.

In a historic move, the US Senate has approved a new bill called the Inflation Reduction Act. It will allocate $430 billion towards cutting greenhouse gas emissions, lowering the cost of prescription drugs for the elderly, and raising taxes paid by wealthy corporations.

Projected to bring in $740 billion in new revenue, the bill will pay for itself over time and reduce the overall federal deficit. As a result, it is expected to bring down inflation rates which have been steadily increasing since the start of the pandemic.

The timing of the bill is particularly important, signalling a huge win for President Biden as November 8th mid-term elections draw closer. The President’s approval ratings were slumping in recent months, with Democrats beginning to question his ability to lead the country in the right direction.

So what does the Inflation Reduction Act entail and what makes it such a landmark move? Let’s break it down, shall we?

America’s first climate-focused legislation

The US is the world’s second largest greenhouse gas emitter, trailing closely behind China.

But despite the growing frequency of wildfires, droughts, and floods across the nation, getting American politicians to acknowledge how a lack of climate legislation has allowed the climate crisis to worsen has been notoriously difficult – until now.

The Inflation Reduction Act serves as America’s acknowledgement of its heavy reliance on Earth-warming fossil fuels, but most importantly, it stands to drastically reduce that reliance. At least $370 billion of the hefty $430 billion budget will be put towards supercharging the green economy throughout the next decade.

This entails investing in an array of low-carbon energy technologies (likely wind and solar), providing tax credits for businesses in the private sector looking to adapt these, and assisting consumers across the nation in switching to clean energy.

Peer-reviewed analysis of the legislation indicates that it will see America’s greenhouse gas emissions slashed by about 40 percent when compared to its 2005 emission levels.

This massive reduction will bring the United States within reach of Biden’s goal to halve overall emissions by 2030. The climate legislation is the product of half a century of fighting, and the largest environmental action ever taken by the nation.

Speaking of the bill, Former Vice President Al Gore – who held the first ever congressional climate change hearings in 1976 – said, ‘Finally, now we have crossed a major threshold. I did not for a moment imagine it would take this long.’

Not an easy fight

Republicans have not been shy in their efforts to block the new budget over the last year, saying it will fail to address rising inflation. They describe it as a ‘job-killing, left-wing spending wish list’ that would ‘undermine growth’ at a time where recession hangs in the balance.

Despite this, a 27-hour weekend debate resulted in the Senate approving the Inflation Reduction Act by a 51-50 party line vote. The best part? Vice President Kamala Harris broke the tie with her ballot entry.

Democrats achieved this majority win through a move called ‘reconciliation,’ which can be applied to any budget-related legislation. In doing so, they avoided the 100-seat chamber’s ‘60 vote threshold’ and were only required to win through gaining the majority vote.

It’s an incredible milestone for the US and its citizens, but also for other nations and the planet itself, as we inch closer towards dangerous levels of planetary heating. And with one of the world’s leading nations taking such significant action, it could result in other countries shaping up, too.

‘To Americans who’ve lost faith that Congress can do big things, this bill is for you,’ said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer in celebration. ‘This bill is going to change America for decades.’

 

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