On the verge of meaningful US climate policy, businesses should prepare to deliver


The United States is on the cusp of finally passing meaningful climate policy, as planet-warming emissions continue to rise in our planet’s atmosphere. Recent reports on the ongoing negotiations around President Biden’s Build Back Better budget reconciliation bill indicate that climate-related provisions could be the single biggest component of the sweeping package. This is our once-in-a-generation opportunity to pass climate policy that meets the scope and scale of the climate crisis — and the world can’t afford to wait for the next one. No matter the mechanism, the private sectors should prepare to deliver on our national goals of halving carbon pollution by the end of this decade and achieving 100 percent clean energy by 2035.

The private sector, in principle, resoundingly agrees. Businesses and investors — typically tepid at best when it comes to publicly endorsing bold climate policy — have come out in massive numbers to support the 100 percent clean energy by 2035 mandate and to publicly and privately urge Congress to act.

By our estimates, these companies and investors have an aggregated annual revenue of over $3 trillion, representing nearly 15 percent of the entire U.S. economy and more than 6.5 million workers over half of all U.S. states. This matters because businesses are responsible for the lion’s share of the problem and they possess the scale, resources and capital to fix it. Legislators should be confident that they can be bold with the support of the private sector at their backs.

And private sector support for these climate policies makes good sense. The latest reported version of the Build Back Better Act includes a substantial amount of funding for clean energy tax credits for clean electricity, clean transportation, clean manufacturing and industry, as well as clean buildings. Businesses and investors understand that these clean energy tax credits are critical — to address the climate crisis, to create good jobs, to help American businesses innovate in the clean technology market and to build a more just and resilient clean energy economy. Together, these tax credits are by far the largest driver of pollution reductions in the Build Back Better Act, and it is critical that they remain in the package.

With Biden’s policy framework in place, businesses and investors along with civil society will need to get to work to make it a reality. In fact, it’s hard to see how many companies can meet their own climate targets without the investments in this package. Electricity accounts for 25 percent of the U.S.’s greenhouse gas emissions. Transitioning to an electric grid powered by renewable sources can build momentum for also decarbonizing industry, transportation, residential and commercial buildings and agriculture.

We are on the cusp of a desperately needed moment of transformation in the United States. In the last two decades, we’ve seen a rapid increase in wind and solar power, spanning Republican and Democratic administrations. We have corporate and investor will to accelerate the transition to a zero-carbon future. We have the solutions already at our fingertips, ready to be scaled. Now we need the policy in place to enable all of it to happen, and happen quickly. A moment that requires all parts of society to move together, completely aligned toward a shared goal — a just, thriving planet for all. Let’s get it done.

Jamie Beck Alexander is the director of Drawdown Labs at Project Drawdown. Follow her on Twitter: @jabeckx 

Paul West, Ph.D., is the director of special projects at Project Drawdown and a researcher at the University of Minnesota. Follow him on Twitter: @coolfireecology

The views expressed here are those of the authors and not necessarily Project Drawdown

Tags Build Back Better carbon emissions climate action Climate change COP26 Global warming Jamie Beck Alexander Joe Biden Paul West

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