The Covid-19 auxiliary bill President Donald Trump, signed on Sunday, includes bills to fund investments in clean energy technologies and regulate climate-warming greenhouse gases – a move that offers hope for President-elect Joe Biden’s greater climate aspiration.
As part of the Omnibus Appropriations Bill, which was part of the Covid Aid Agreement, the legislation provides for spending of $ 35 billion over the next five years on solar, wind and other clean energy sources. It also includes new regulations on the leakage of a planetary warming refrigerant called fluorocarbon, which is commonly used in refrigerators and air conditioners.
“This is the premier climate and energy bill that Congress has passed in at least a decade,” said Dan Lashof, director of the World Resources Institute, a Washington-based not-for-profit global research organization.
The climate policy within the 5,593-page bill was supported by prominent members of both parties in Congress.
“Republicans and Democrats work together to protect the environment through innovation,” Senator John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works, told The .
“These measures will protect our air while keeping costs down to the American people,” he added.
The funding comes before the expected significant climate boost from Biden, who campaigned for a $ 2 trillion plan Biden has also announced that the US will re-enter the US energy system and aim to achieve a 100 percent standard for clean electricity by 2035 Paris Climate Agreement.
And during Biden has some Republican allies Enforcing key laws is likely to be a challenge in his fight against climate change. Gina McCarthy, the former head of the Environmental Protection Agency who appointed Biden to lead its climate effort, said in an interview that if Congress defies his efforts, Biden will have options as president.
“I know people are concerned about what we can do legally, but there is so much that can be done with executive power,” McCarthy said. “It is the federal government that decides how to advance the budget provided by Congress.”
McCarthy said Biden could target greenhouse gases on day one.
“I think we can do a lot with executive orders,” she said. “On the mitigation side, there is a lot you can do to reduce greenhouse gases and the work will start immediately.”
The legislation contained in the Covid-19 bill gives these efforts a head start by targeting fluorocarbons or HFCs, which are a small percentage of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere but are considered extremely dangerous for doing so Capture a thousand times as much heat as carbon dioxide.
The law makes the US in line with that Kigali agreement, an October 2016 agreement between 197 nations for the elimination of HFCs. During his presidency, Trump never ratified the deal, which climate activists see as a crucial part of the broader fight against global warming.
“Overall, the Kigali change is expected to reduce global warming by 0.5 degrees Celsius, or nearly 1 degree Fahrenheit,” Lashof said.
McCarthy said these kinds of steps were key to reintroducing the US as a world leader in the fight against climate change.
“I think we will be welcomed with open arms,” said McCarthy, who also negotiated for the Kigali agreement on behalf of the USA. “I think people are waiting for the US to rejoin and lead again.” “”
In addition to the HFC regulation, the legislation extends the tax credits for solar and wind power companies, which were originally due to expire at the end of the year, by two years. There is also money in researching new “grid technologies” for storing energy and removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere generated by power plants and manufacturing facilities.
Lashof called the bill a “very positive way to end a very difficult year”.