Biden’s budget tackles climate crisis across nearly every federal agency
Budgets are a statement of priorities, and President Biden’s budget clearly shows everyone in this country that he is prioritizing investing in our people, our economy and our environment. His first budget undoes much of the damage to climate action created by the Trump administration while making essential investments that will help our country transition to a just clean energy economy that works for all.
What makes this budget truly innovative is that, across nearly every federal agency, there are new programs and efforts designed to tackle the climate crisis. These new programs are coupled with an increase in requests for personnel, an essential step to revitalize the federal agencies in the wake of former President Trump’s efforts to gut them of staff and expertise. In sum, this is a budget blueprint which is designed to build on the promise of Biden’s “Build Back Better” platform.
This ambitious document increases investments in climate action by over $14 billion from the previous year. Above all, it prioritizes investing in resilience and clean energy, enhances U.S. competitiveness, and puts America on a path to achieve net-zero emissions no later than 2050.
These investments are guided by Biden’s plan to ensure that 40 percent of the benefits from tackling the climate crisis are targeted toward addressing the disproportionately high cumulative impacts on underserved communities, and they come alongside critical new funding for environmental justice programs at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Make no mistake: This budget makes the largest investment in environmental justice in U.S. history. To support marginalized and overburdened communities across America, the budget invests more than $1.4 billion, including $936 million toward a new Accelerating Environmental and Economic Justice Initiative at the EPA. The initiative would help create good-paying union jobs, clean up pollution and secure environmental justice for communities that have been left behind.
Job creation is central to the president’s budget. And this discretionary request seeks to create more good-paying jobs by transforming the U.S. electricity sector. Electrifying and increasing the clean energy share of the economy represents one of the biggest job creation opportunities of the 21st century. That is why the Biden budget provides $2 billion to put welders, electricians and other skilled labor to work building clean energy projects across the nation.
Beyond transforming the electricity sector, Biden’s budget invests in other critical infrastructure priorities, including $1.7 billion to support energy saving retrofits in homes, schools and federal buildings. That includes $800 million in new investments across Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) programs for rehabilitation and modernization to improve climate resilience and energy efficiency.
The transportation sector is the largest source of carbon pollution in our country. As a result, incentivizing the transition to electric vehicles will be key to addressing the climate crisis. Increasing demand for American made, zero-emission vehicles can be supplemented through federal procurement. To that end, the budget includes $600 million for electric vehicles and charging infrastructure, as well as dedicated funds at the General Services Administration for other agencies and for United States Postal Service charging infrastructure.
The benefits of transitioning to zero-emission vehicles can be made exponentially more potent by spurring innovation in clean energy technologies. The Biden budget invests more than $10 billion — a nearly 30 percent increase over 2021 — in clean energy innovation across non-defense agencies. These investments are designed to help transform the nation’s electric, transportation, buildings and industrial sectors as we work to achieve a net-zero carbon economy by 2050.
Other innovation investments in the budget include $4 billion in advances in climate science and sustainability research across the Department of the Interior, NASA and the National Science Foundation, as well as $1 billion to create a new Advanced Research Projects Agency for Climate and enhanced investments in the existing Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy. Together, these initiatives would support high-reward solutions for adaptation and resilience against the climate crisis, as well as enable robust investments in clean energy technology research and development.
As extreme weather events become more frequent and severe, investing in climate resilience and disaster planning will be critical. Biden’s budget provides $815 million to incorporate climate impacts into pre-disaster planning to ensure that we can rebuild smarter and safer for the future. That’s a $540 million increase above the 2021 level. It also includes $7 billion for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) — an increase of $1.5 billion from the 2021 enacted level — to allow the agency to expand its climate observation and forecasting work.
To secure a lasting and equitable economic recovery that allows us to bounce back from the last year of so much hardship, Congress should mobilize right away to support the visionary Biden-Harris budget. Now is the time to go big on jobs, go big on justice and go big on climate solutions.
Kirin Kennedy is the Sierra Club’s deputy legislative director for budget and appropriations.