Climate change, resilience, $1 trillion infrastructure bill

photo of Joe Biden
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The Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal is a $1 trillion investment that marks one of the largest amounts of money ever spent by the United States government on climate change mitigation and resilience. After previously being passed in the Senate back in August, the bill recently received its final approval from the House in a bipartisan 228-206 vote on November 6. It now heads to President Biden’s desk for approval. The bipartisan support shows a move toward climate change adaptation after a year of climate disasters. Just last year, there were 22 separate billion-dollar weather disasters in the United States. Previously, the record had stood at 16 events in 2017 and 2011. In any case, the 2,702-page bill is certainly a lengthy read, but here are just some of the highlights to look forward to.

Investment in climate resilience

The increase in strength and frequency of climate disasters has called for an immediate need for preparing for a new age of extreme weather events. Forty-seven billion dollars will be allocated to climate resilience and investing in infrastructure related to extreme weather events such as floods, wildfires and droughts. Funding will be awarded to organizations such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Agriculture and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, to combat climate change. For example, NOAA will receive $492 million in order to forecast inland and coastal flooding to better predict and model future floods.

Modernizing the public transit system 

The transportation sector is the largest contributor to United States greenhouse gas emissions according to the Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks. Including cars, trucks, commercial aircraft and railroads, there are many ways in which emissions can be reduced in the transportation sector. The infrastructure bill will invest $39 billion into the public transit system by repairing and modernizing equipment. Thousands of transit vehicles will be replaced with zero-emission vehicles, a step in the right direction for tackling emissions from the transportation sector.

Helping communities suffering from legacy pollution

Many communities built around former industrial and energy buildings suffer from legacy pollution, contaminants that have been left in the environment by sources that are no longer discharging them. These idle buildings which once polluted the surrounding land have left “forever chemicals” known as PFAS which pose many health risks to those exposed. These sites of concentrated pollution have disproportionately affected Black Americans and Hispanic Americans. An investment of $21 billion in environmental remediation for those suffering from legacy pollution will address abandoned industrial buildings and bring justice to those disproportionately affected.

Network of electric vehicle charging stations

The millions who have made a switch to an electric vehicle, which is estimated to grow to 18.7 million by 2030, all need a place to charge their vehicle. To further encourage the adoption of electric vehicles, the bill includes $7.5 billion for electric vehicle charging stations. The low margins associated with funding public charging stations remains an obstacle for companies looking to invest in public charging networks. However, with the support of the federal government, the expansion of charging stations will lead to greater adoption of electric vehicles.

Although there are many great things to come from this infrastructure bill, many critics are quick to argue that this investment is merely the first step in tackling climate change. Originally, the proposed bill stood at $2.6 trillion and included large sums of money dedicated to innovation and clean energy tax credits. While this bill mainly prepares us for climate upheaval, there is still much to be done in tackling the source of our climate troubles: cutting emissions. 

Contact Adrian Fontao at [email protected].