After months of fraught negotiations, relentless advocacy, and an unhealthy amount of anxiety, we finally have a sense of what climate provisions will be included in the Build Back Better Act. Based on the released framework, which includes over $550 billion in climate funds, this will not only be the most impactful climate legislation in our lifetime, but in the history of the U.S. If it passes Congress, it will be an incredible achievement that by all estimates will set us well on our way to dramatically cutting U.S. emissions and on the longer path of building the green and just future we need.
For years, if not decades, the brunt of climate advocacy work has been borne by young people. It has been diligent youth activists pushing relentlessly for climate change to be seen as the existential crisis that it is. Advocating not just for their own future, but the future of communities around the world, and the futures of all those to come. And even though bills like this should have come a long time ago, we can finally say with certainty that our voices are being heard and change is coming.
Here are three highlights from the Build Back Better framework that we at Defend Our Future find particularly important.
1. Driving Down Climate Pollution
Reducing our emissions is a critical step in addressing climate change, and this framework places that need front and center. As it stands, this bill is poised to impact the entire economy- from how we power our homes, to the cars we drive, to the air we breathe. The framework includes clean energy and technology investments that will encourage widespread use of solar and wind energies while also making solar more affordable for the everyday person to install. Beyond that, tax credits for buying American-made electric vehicles (EVs) are built in along with money to build EV charging stations, and funds to invest in long-term, climate resilient solutions for farms. Collectively, these investments are expected to bring us much closer to reaching President Biden’s goal of reducing U.S. climate pollution by 50-52% by 2030.
2. Environmental Justice
Underlying the President’s Build Back Better agenda is the Justice40 initiative that promises to deliver 40% of the investment benefits to historically disadvantaged communities. Critical provisions in this category include port electrification, investments in clean transit, buses, and heavy duty vehicles, and money for lead pipe replacement- all of which have a disproportionate health impact on low-income communities and communities of color. Excitingly, money to fund environmental justice grants and the long-needed Civilian Climate Corps was also included in the framework. The Civilian Climate Corps is intended to be made up of a diverse group of over 300,000 young members focussed on conserving public lands and bolstering community resilience, and is seen as a way for average Americans to have a say in how our country continues to address climate change.
3. Jobs, Jobs, Jobs
In college, everyone wants to know what your plan is- and while that may always be a stress-inducing conversation, the Build Back Better Act is at least giving you a few more options that will be great for your community as well. Another key pillar of the bill is its emphasis on good-paying, clean job creation. All the clean energy investments mentioned above won’t just cut emissions, but will also expand the job market to include green manufacturing, construction, finance, and conservation jobs in every sector. So now you have even more career paths to consider! Creating jobs that can grow with an ever-greening economy is critical to ensuring that people will have access to good jobs as we move away from a carbon-based economy.
Even though this bill is not yet signed into law- and your voice is still needed to make sure that happens- the fact that these critically impactful programs are in the framework is worth celebrating. As noted earlier, climate legislation on this scale has never been seen before and the only reason we are seeing it now is because of climate activists like you. So take time to congratulate your fellow activists- we all need to hear it!
To build back better we must build back green, and let’s use this momentum to make sure this historic bill stays just as green as we like it.