The Guardian’s take on Biden’s Green Deal: Leadership after Trump’s denial | Editorial

Ohen the House of Representatives passed historic climate legislation on Friday, Joe Biden scored one of the surprise successes of his presidency. It was only last month that his ambitious agenda appeared to sink after a conservative Democrat and coal baron, Joe Manchin, refused to back him. His vote is crucial in an equally divided Senate. However, the climate proposals were largely resurrected in the form of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), co-authored by Mr Manchin, which Congress approved.

America’s first major climate law doesn’t come too soon. This is the best and last opportunity for the country to achieve its goal of reduce by half greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and, with it, a world where net zero by mid-century is possible. After Donald Trump, Mr. Biden can take up the torch of global climate leadership for the United States. But the act reveals the limits of his power.

Democrats initial $3.5 billion plan was to expand education, fight poverty, reduce health care costs and fight climate change. That was whittled down to a $1.75 billion bill that the House past Last year. But he got nowhere in the Senate. Mr. Manchin refused to support Social Security programs and his centrist colleague Kirsten Sinema refused to support tax hikes. What was left was $490 billion in climate and investments in health.

That deserves a little cheer from progressives. Mr. Biden is leading a tough policy of state intervention in the economy. The law gives the federal government the power to negotiate lower drug prices for the first time. Significantly for the climate, it represented a new US industrial policy that subsidizes carbon-free electricity generation through tax credits. He also recognizes that the United States is fall behind china in green technologies — spending $152 billion less on renewable investments last year — and is focusing on ways to encourage clean-energy manufacturing.

Politics in the United States is unfortunately far too influenced by the power of vested interests. The United States remains dependent on fossil fuels, which produce 61% of its electricity. Its shale gas industry seeks to replace russia as Europe’s main energy supplier. The result was that the fossil fuel lobbyists won concessions in climate legislation. The trade-off is to tie renewable energy development to new oil and gas extraction, the disproportionate cost of which many communities will bear.

Nevertheless, for every ton of emissions caused by the provisions of the Fossil Fuel Act, the nonpartisan body Energy innovation thinktank claims that 24 tons of emissions are avoided thanks to its green provisions. That should help energize Mr. Biden’s base ahead of the midterm elections. Despite Republican antagonism, climate action enjoys broad support in the United States. A Pew Research Center poll suggests that 58% of voters believe the federal government is doing too little to “reduce the effects of global climate change, compared to just 18% who say it is doing too much.”

To be a truly transformative president, Mr. Biden will have to remake society. What the act demonstrates is that it does not have the voices – yet – in his own party for such a program. Mr. Biden’s climate plans could fail as he relies on the the spending carrot rather than the tax stick to support an energy transition. Yet the wasteful consumption of the rich will have to be reduced through progressive taxation to free up resources for socially useful spending. Ultimately, the climate emergency requires fundamental economic restructuring. Mr. Biden’s new environmental law is a good start, but there is still a long way to go.

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