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Join our work today to help us build a thriving and just clean energy future. 

The Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act Can't Meet Biden’s Climate Goals

The president must deliver bold investments through reconciliation.

President Joe Biden signing the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Monday, November 15, 2021, on the South Lawn of the White House.

Since the Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act (IIJA) passed last year, Democratic leaders in Washington have spent months touting the bill's climate provisions. But as top Biden administration officials celebrate IIJA’s achievements, it’s important to measure the bill’s climate progress against the scale of what the president has committed to, and what is necessary to meaningfully address the climate crisis. While the bill does make investments in cutting carbon pollution, deploying clean energy, and more, those achievements should be put in context: IIJA is not a climate bill. It can achieve only marginal cuts to carbon pollution, and it may ultimately result in more pollution. The bipartisan effort attains a fraction of the pollution reductions we need to meet President Biden’s climate commitments and avert a centuries-long catastrophe.

To meet his climate and environmental justice commitments, President Biden must get major investments passed through budget reconciliation. The president ran and won on a historically ambitious climate platform, and pledged to reach a 100% clean grid by 2035. Soon after taking office, he further committed the country to cutting emissions by 50-52% by 2030, all while advancing his historic Justice40 initiative to ensure resources flow to communities most burdened by long-standing environmental racism. Recent warnings from the IPCC have reaffirmed the urgent need to meet our climate targets; if we want to avert catastrophic warming and the toll it will take, Biden must make good on his climate commitments. Models unequivocally indicate that only a robust package of investments, paired with aggressive executive, state, and local action, can get us there. These investments are also central to advancing the president’s commitments to environmental justice, to creating good union jobs in the clean energy economy, and to cutting Americans’ energy costs.

The White House and Congress still have time to make good on the president’s promises. President Biden has made progress through executive action, but the administration has reversed course on key issues and left significant room for improvement on others. The race to act on climate and fulfill President Biden’s climate commitments is just getting started—this is no time to rest on our laurels. President Biden and Democratic leadership in Congress must engage directly in negotiations to reach a deal on a reconciliation bill with the historic climate and clean energy investments we need to tackle the climate crisis with the urgency and scale demanded by science.

The Bipartisan Bill Will Not Get the Job Done

IIJA will do little to move the country toward President Biden’s 2030 emissions target; according to modeling from Princeton’s REPEAT Lab, it can achieve only 9% of the pollution cuts we need. And even that is the most optimistic scenario—the Georgetown Climate Center found that IIJA’s provisions could result in net higher carbon pollution, depending on how the dollars are spent. States will have significant discretion in spending the bill’s $600 billion for surface transportation, with the opportunity to choose between investing in bigger highways and more cars on the road, or improved public transit and cleaner modes of transportation. IIJA’s prospects for cutting carbon pollution hang entirely on how governors spend federal grants.

There are certainly elements of the bipartisan bill worth celebrating: investments in clean water, infrastructure resilience, grid upgrades, and certain pollution reduction programs are all promising developments. But in terms of carbon pollution, and averting escalating climate catastrophe, IIJA comes up well short of what’s needed.

Executive Action Alone Cannot Close the Gap

The Biden administration has made notable progress on tackling the climate crisis using a range of existing executive authorities, but they haven’t yet gone far enough fast enough. On issues as diverse as industrial hydrofluorocarbon pollutionclean cars, federal green power purchasing, and international fossil fuel financing, the president has advanced his climate goals. On other key issues, like federal land leasing and fossil fuel exports, the administration has fallen short. 

It’s clear that the president intends to go further to cut carbon pollution and advance toward 100% clean energy. Leadership from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and funds available for distribution through the Department of Energy, will allow the Administration to make critical progress toward their climate goals over the coming years. But modeling shows that these initiatives are only a piece of the puzzle, and cannot solve the crisis on their own. Even as the president leverages his full executive authorities to drive the clean energy transition, he must make good on his cornerstone promise: getting a historic package of climate investments passed into law. 

We Need a Reconciliation Bill Before Summer

This is not the moment for the Biden administration to shrink their ambition—it’s the time for President Biden and Majority Leader Schumer to deliver on their commitments, and bring a robust reconciliation bill over the finish line. As we approach the 2022 midterms, it’s clearer than ever that time is running out. It may require difficult negotiations to reach a deal that can get 50 votes in the Senate, but failure is not an option. Democrats have until before summer to land a deal on a reconciliation package with the historic climate and clean energy investments we need to take on the climate crisis and deliver on the president’s commitments. 

President Biden and Senator Schumer Must Deliver

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