Congressional Democrats & Biden Administration Move Towards Passing Largest Climate Investment in US History

Biden's Build Back Better framework

This week, President Biden and a critical mass of Democrats in the Senate and House agreed on the details of Build Back Better legislation, $1.85 trillion in overall investment that includes a record-setting $555 billion to take on the climate crisis.

The agreement marked a huge step forward after weeks of negotiations, and represents what would be far and away the single largest climate investment in American history, with the majority -- $320 billion -- going toward tax credits to incentivize the clean energy transition. This breakthrough is remarkable given Democrats only have a 50-50 Senate majority that relies upon the deciding vote of a coal-state Democrat; more than half a trillion dollars for climate is more than five times the 2009 high-water mark for federal investment in the green economy. As John Podesta, former White House Chief of Staff and co-founder of the Center for American Progress (CAP), said in a statement last week: "[This] framework isn't going to solve climate change and environmental injustice all by itself, but it is an agreement to stand together for the first time and fight for our future."

The broader framework of the legislation outlines spending on key housing, educational, and health care priorities -- issues that are all impacted by climate change.

PBS: Biden lauds House Dem compromise on Build Back Better plan…, October 28, 2021.

Why This Matters

The current scale of climate change demands "big, bold" climate action. This plan, if it passes, is a large step toward changing the US energy supply from fossil fuels to renewable sources that won't warm the planet or pollute the air. It's the kind of policy backed by funding that's necessary to reduce the carbon pumping into the atmosphere and warming the planet. Going into COP26, it creates leverage and momentum for US climate diplomacy on the global scale.

And it's popular at home, too: public support for climate action by the President and Congress is on the rise, even among Republicans.

WW0: Republicans For Change, March 2, 2021.

More From the Framework: EVs, Home Efficiency, Climate Corps

Clean energy tax credits: are "the backbone of the climate aspects of the package," as Christy Goldfuss, CAP's senior vice president of energy and environment policy told Bloomberg. The credits can be used for both utility-scale and residential projects, including transmission and energy storage.

Electricity + efficiency = savings for Americans: the plan would make electric vehicles more accessible, with as much as $12,500 in tax credits available for EVs "made in America with American materials and union labor." It also would expand rebates and credits for people installing clean energy or increasing energy efficiency in their home. The plan could lower the cost of installing rooftop solar at home by roughly 30%, according to the White House.

Pathways for Americans into the climate workforce: would be created as well, with a Civilian Climate Corps that would provide jobs in a range of environmental areas, from plugging abandoned wells to restoring wetlands. The framework also emphasizes building clean energy infrastructure in the US, providings Americans with manufacturing jobs making wind turbine blades and solar panels.

Center for Strategic & International Studies: Charting a Path for Just Transitions, March 10, 2021