As many predicted, the pace of global change on climate is beginning to show signs of acceleration, with the US government announcing a major infrastructure plan that packages significant spending and regulations on the country’s greenhouse gas emissions and an international summit held by the International Energy Agency highlighting hastening change.
After a recent announcement to significantly expand US offshore wind deployment, Biden’s $2 trillion USD infrastructure plan includes a significant proportion that is directly or indirectly related to reducing emissions and upgrading energy-related infrastructure. The plan easily dwarfs the Obama-era post-global financial crisis stimulus, as noted by US energy expert Jesse Jenkins.
*Very Biden voice* Folks, here's the deal:
At ~$1 TRILLION in total clean investment, what Biden is proposing in #JobsAct is not just bigger than clean investment in the Recovery Act of 2009 (~$90b), it's bigger than the ENTIRE Recovery Act (~$831b)!
Details #EnergyTwitter ⤵️
— JesseJenkins (@JesseJenkins) March 31, 2021
The Biden plan includes a ‘clean electricity standard’, which would help power a transition to 100% clean energy by 2035 and environmental justice policies such as retrofitting public and affordable housing and directing investment towards disadvantaged communities. The policy would require utilities to buy ratcheting amount of zero emissions electricity until they hit 100%. The Washington Examiner’s Josh Siegel highlights that this regulatory approach is unlike much of the other parts of Biden’s plan, which is otherwise “largely a massive spending measure — electrifying transportation, supporting renewable and low-carbon energy deployment, and boosting clean energy manufacturing”.
Let's also dig into the substantive details of the plan, where there is a lot to celebrate! 🎉
– A Clean Electricity Standard
– 40% investments to disadvantaged communities
– Building electrification
– ARPA-E + ARPA-C
– Big plans on transportation (transit to EVs)
– A LOT MORE!
— Dr. Leah Stokes (@leahstokes) March 31, 2021
The plan also includes an extension of existing renewable incentives, known as ‘renewable energy tax credits’, boosts for transmission line deployment, clean power for federal government buildings and research into new technologies such as carbon capture and hydrogen. It also plans to eliminate all fossil fuel subsidies in the US.
While workers in coal communities were nervous about finding equivalent work in clean energy industries, Siegel also highlights that Biden’s bill is expansive, including energy, electric vehicles, energy efficiency and transmission project, and the underlying supply chains for all these technologies.
Biden’s plan also includes a $174 billion USD investment into electric vehicles, including the establishment of a national electric vehicle charging network. The promise is to build 500,000 public chargers by 2030, electrify 20% of the school bus fleet and get all US built buses to zero emissions by 2030.
“We are going to build out our grid, we are going to reduce our emissions, we are going to step up in a very significant way,” said US climate envoy John Kerry, at the International Energy Agency’s Net Zero Summit. “I don’t want to be the scold,” Kerry said. “The reality is none of us can get there alone. We can’t just willy-nilly ignore the next 10 years.”
The IEA’s Net Zero summit saw decision makers from 40 countries consider key issues around collaboration and policy implementation, ahead of the 26th Conference of Parties (COP26) meeting to be held in November this year.
Australia’s Energy and Emissions Reductions Minister, Angus Taylor, addressed the ‘Accelerating Technology and Innovation in Key Sectors’ panel. Taylor repeated the government’s insistence of a “preference” for achieving net zero emissions by 2050, and said that Australia is “deploying renewable energy at ten times the global average, per person”.
A recent report from Ember Climate highlighted that while Australia has seen a rapid increase in wind and solar from a low baseline, the country also has one of the world’s highest shares of coal power. Taylor claimed Australia is “on the way to meeting and beating our 2030 targets”, despite his department’s latest projections showing they will be missed by around 4-5%.
“We particularly welcome the Biden administration’s commitment to advancing new technologies that will reduce emissions and create economic prosperity”, said Taylor, pointedly not mentioning the new subsidies for electric vehicles and the clean power ambitions, both of which are notable gaps in government policy.
“It is time for the world to move from a decade of climate change deliberation to a decade of delivery. The UK strongly encourages countries to endorse the IEA’s seven principles for achieving net zero. Today’s Summit clearly showed willingness from governments, civil society and businesses to work together in each emitting sector to make this happen and keep the 1.5 degree target within reach,” said Alok Sharma, the COP26 President. Taylor’s comments were a marked departure from the tone of ambition, substance and short-term policy focus that dominated the summit.