By Barbara Brummer and Rob Wilson
The US Congress is facing the opportunity of a generation to bolster the economy of New Jersey and the country while simultaneously addressing the existential threat of our lifetimes – climate change.
The Inflation Reduction Act, recently approved by the Senate and under consideration in the House, includes sections that would represent the most significant achievement ever by Congress to address the climate crisis. It comes at a time when the nation is facing the impacts of climate change from coast to coast.
The bill includes a suite of smart incentives and investments that would make meaningful progress towards our climate goals and unlock the promise of innovative, cleaner industries and the jobs that come with them. If approved, these provisions are projected to reduce carbon emissions by roughly 40% by 2030, putting us within reach of our climate goals and international commitments.
Parts of the bill also would help address the disproportionate effects air pollution and climate change have on historically marginalized or underserved communities by improving local air quality, lowering energy costs and expanding access to clean energy in front-line communities.
In addition, recent research found that nationally, these investments would support more than 600,000 jobs every year for 10 years. These include skilled positions that will help diversify economic opportunities since they come from a mix of investments across the power, agriculture and forestry, buildings and transportation sectors. The jobs and associated economic activity will generate nearly $6.2 billion annually in local, state, and federal government taxes for ten years.
In New Jersey, clean power incentives and investments will create employment opportunities that trend toward well-paying jobs in construction and professional services industries, with benefits rippling throughout the supply chain and broadly across the economy. Acceleration of clean energy and improved energy efficiency will help diversify our energy mix, enhancing energy security, moderating price spikes and avoiding supply disruptions.
Nationwide, recent summer seasons have provided a preview of the future we can expect if we fail in our efforts to reverse the progress of climate change: life-threatening heat, uncontrolled forest fires, historic and deadly floods. Research by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concludes that “any further delay in concerted … action … will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a livable and sustainable future for all.”
Approval of the Inflation Reduction Act will put us on the path to achieving the goals we have set to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. It is not the only step on that path. State and local governments have set goals and made significant investments towards the clean energy transition and individual Americans continue to demonstrate an eagerness to reduce their energy consumption. And our work is not done. We must continue efforts to fully meet climate goals, working with Congress, state and local governments and supportive business partners.
When combined with the long-term benefits for jobs, energy security and community resilience, it becomes clear these investments are the right choice to put us on a path towards a brighter future. The climate and clean energy provisions included in the bill promise to accelerate equitable clean energy transitions and drive down emissions across the country.
If we miss the narrow window of opportunity to enact these policies now, we may lose our chance to make big strides over the next decade.
Now is not the time to let up. We must urge the House — including New Jersey’s representatives — to pass this critical bill.
Barbara Brummer is the state director of The Nature Conservancy in New Jersey and Rob Wilson is a trustee.
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