This month the US Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which represents the largest investment in climate action in US history. The IRA commits about $369 billion to climate action.
This is a huge win for everyone concerned about the climate crisis. It will also be a huge win for those who aren’t concerned but are nevertheless facing floods or drought or wildfires exacerbated by climate change. Experts estimate the bill will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 40% by 2030. There are also funds to help communities become more resilient to the climate change already happening.
This is a big deal and it is long overdue. James Hansen first testified to Congress about global warming in 1988. For twenty years, emissions continued to rise while Congress took no action. Then, in 2008 Nancy Pelosi and Newt Gingrich sat together on a couch, urging action on climate change. Another fourteen years passed without legislation. Sure, there were bills and people made speeches but no major Congressional investment to mitigate climate change. Now it is 2022 and, finally, the Senate and House passed substantial legislation, committing $369 billion to climate action. In the last few days I listened to a lot of climate experts talk about this legislation. There is notable optimism out there –a rare thing among climate experts—about our ability to reduce emissions through legislation that will make clean energy solutions more affordable and more broadly adopted. To get a flavor of the optimism out there, check out:
• Hank Green’s vlog about the IRA, titled "The Biggest Deal in Climate History Almost Didn't Happen" hits the high points and has some great visuals
• Volts, the David Roberts podcast with Leah Stokes and Jesse Jenkins, discusses the details of the legislation as it was passing the Senate.
Already people are asking me what the legislation means for us here in Dane County. The answer is simple: with the IRA, the federal government is becoming an ally in our efforts to cut countywide emissions in half by 2030.
Dane County issued its Climate Action Plan (CAP) in 2020, setting a path to cutting countywide emissions in half by 2030. Heeding advice from Dane County Executive Joe Parisi, local stakeholders created a CAP that did not rely on yet-to-be-determined assistance from the state or federal government. Instead, the Dane County Council on Climate Change identified the heavy lifting we needed to do locally to achieve our ambitious goals. We are making progress on the goals set forth in the CAP. The IRA means that federal assistance, mostly in the form of tax credits for the individuals and businesses who lead on climate action, will accelerate our local efforts. It also means that clean energy technologies will be more affordable. And that there will be more support to address climate resilience. It has been a long wait but, finally, we are delighted to welcome the federal government as an ally in our efforts to reduce emissions and increase prosperity across Dane County.
Let’s get it done, Dane County.
Kathy is the Director of the Dane County’s Office of Energy and Climate Change. In that role she's leading efforts to implement the Climate Action Plan. Prior to coming to Dane County, Kathy led Cool Choices and, prior to that, she led Wisconsin's Focus on Energy program.
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