President Biden’s recently announced American Jobs Plan makes much mention of climate change and building back greener. In his call to Congress, Biden sets out how expansion and improvement projects must be carried out appropriately to avoid worsening environmental impacts, noting “every dollar spent on rebuilding our infrastructure during the Biden administration will be used to prevent, reduce, and withstand the impacts of the climate crisis”. But the plan also highlights the resilience of critical infrastructure under threat from climate change, and calls for $50 billion in dedicated investments.
In 2020, the U.S. suffered 22 separate billion-dollar weather and climate disasters, costing $95 billion in damages to homes, businesses, and public infrastructure. The American Jobs Plan pledges to make infrastructure more resilient in the face of increasingly severe floods, wildfires, hurricanes, and other risks.
According to the plan’s fact sheet, the administration aims to invest in a range of programs, including FEMA’s Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities program, HUD’s Community Development Block Grant program, new initiatives at the Department of Transportation, a bipartisan tax credit to provide incentives to low- and middle-income families and to small businesses to invest in disaster resilience, and transition and relocation assistance to support community-led transitions for the most vulnerable tribal communities.
There will also be a focus on cleaner air and water and a “clean” energy system that can better withstand the effects of climate change.
Understanding the benefits of the planet’s natural infrastructure, the plan will also protect and, where necessary, restore American lands, forests, wetlands, watersheds, and coastal and ocean resources. Plus a $10 billion investment will put Americans to work conserving public lands and waters, bolstering community resilience, and advancing environmental justice through a new Civilian Climate Corps.
As part of the plan, the President is calling on Congress to invest $35 billion in the full range of solutions needed to achieve technology breakthroughs that address the climate crisis and position America as the global leader in clean energy technology and clean energy jobs. This includes launching the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Climate (ARPA-C) to develop new methods for reducing emissions and building climate resilience, as well as expanding across-the-board funding for climate research. In addition to a $5 billion increase in funding for other climate-focused research, the plan will invest $15 billion in demonstration projects for climate R&D priorities, including utility-scale energy storage, carbon capture and storage, hydrogen, advanced nuclear, rare earth element separations, floating offshore wind, biofuel/bioproducts, quantum computing, and electric vehicles, as well as strengthening U.S. technological leadership in these areas in global markets.
It is still early days for the presidency but so far, and in spite of other pressing matters, there are encouraging signs that Biden is acting on his commitment to act on climate change, which he announced as one of his primary focus areas during the transition process.