This week, the latest framework for the Build Back Better Act, President Biden and Congress’s plan to help protect Americans against climate change, spur job growth, and provide critical social safety nets to envision a better, more just, and resilient future for America was released. The $1.85 trillion framework promises to make a considerable impact on the United State’s efforts against climate change, to the tune of $550 billion in clean energy and climate investments over the next decade. If passed, this bill will slash pollution by up to 50% by 2030, create millions of jobs in the clean energy, transportation, and conservation sectors, and vastly improve the lives of those in underserved, BIPOC, and low-income communities both urban and rural. Below, we explore some of the climate and environmental highlights from the bill and what they mean for the average New Yorker.
- Tax Credits for a Clean Future
One of the most notable areas of investment is in expanded tax credits for clean energy manufacturing, generation, transmission, and storage alongside clean transportation including passenger and commercial vehicles. Renewable energy tax credits have long been one of the primary engines behind U.S. climate policy, and with hefty new investments in the Build Back Better Act, these tax credits will be stronger than ever.
What this means
The overarching impact of clean energy, storage, and clean transportation tax credits on New Yorkers is simple: these credits are designed to make our energy grid and our transportation more green. Credits for utility scale renewable energy will help spur New York utilities like Con Edison to deliver on their promises of greening their energy supply, meaning more homes across New York will be run on renewables. For New Yorkers who live in more densely-populated areas that have historically lagged behind in terms of clean energy generation, for example, New York City, incentives for increased transmission will help make sure these communities are not left behind in the transition to renewable energy. Additionally, credits for clean commercial transport will help chip away at one of New York’s highest-emission sectors, as transportation currently accounts for 36% of our greenhouse gas emissions statewide. It will also help reduce pollution rates in communities most impacted by transportation pollution: primarily Latinx, Asian, and Black communities in areas like the South Bronx, North Brooklyn, Buffalo, and Syracuse.
The impact of these credits isn’t limited to the macro-scale or businesses; they will also support New York families in making cleaner, greener choices. The average middle class family in New York will be eligible to receive $12,500 for buying an electric vehicle, making clean transportation much more accessible for individuals and families across the state. Credits will also lower the cost of residential solar, such as rooftop solar, by about 30%, making it more affordable for New Yorkers to install renewable energy on their own homes.
These credits also include key provisions that will help create good-paying jobs in New York’s historic manufacturing communities like the auto manufacturing community surrounding Buffalo, growing the local economies of these industry hubs. For example, the tax credits for electric vehicles target American-made vehicles created using union labor and domestic materials. This will translate into more transportation manufacturing jobs in New York and across the U.S., transitioning more and more workers into high-quality jobs- many of which union, meaning strong labor protections- while helping to future-proof the manufacturing industry through the clean economy transition.
- Resilience Investments
The Build Back Better Act also includes significant funding for resilience investments, monies targeted at helping tackle some of the worst impacts of climate change including extreme weather. These investments also include funding to establish a Civilian Climate Corps and address legacy pollution in communities.
What this means
Resilience has been a big topic of discussion among New Yorkers, especially as climate impacts such as more extreme weather, increased flooding, and extreme heat has threatened our communities even as recently as earlier this week. With these impacts ever more present in the minds of New York residents, businesses, and politicians, investments in adapting our communities and infrastructure to this new reality offer a welcome down payment on a more resilient future. This funding will go to critical projects in areas such as coastal restoration, forest management, and soil conservation. Additionally, these resilience investments include funding aimed at supporting farmers and forestland owners with their climate action, providing an essential boost to New York’s farmers and land managers to support their environmental stewardship efforts.
By providing funding to help clean up Superfund sites, improve air quality, and other essential pollution remediation and mitigation efforts, these resilience investments will also help many of New York’s environmental justice, minority, and low-income communities who disproportionately live in communities impacted by legacy pollution. This means communities from Greenpoint to Saratoga Springs and Cheektowaaga will hopefully be looking at a cleaner, greener future.
Finally, the establishment of a Civilian Climate Corps (CCC) will be crucial to help conserve New York’s essential ecosystems, including its wetlands, forests, and its public lands and waters. The CCC will not only help protect valued recreation sites, preserve the state’s biodiversity, increase flood resiliency, and provide carbon sequestrations through its conservation, it will also offer the opportunity for good-paying green jobs to hundreds of young New Yorkers.
- Investments and Incentives for Clean Energy Technology, Manufacturing, and Supply Chains
With the need for a renewable future comes the opportunity to grow the clean energy industry in the U.S., including technology, manufacturing, and supply chains. The $110 billion reserved for clean energy technology, manufacturing, and supply chain investments in Build Back Better aims to do just that.
What this means
As with the tax credits discussed above, these investments and incentives will help grow and diversify New York’s manufacturing sector, historically one of the cornerstones of New York’s economy, with a focus on clean energy. These investments could lead to more clean energy manufacturing hubs across New York -similar to the new Port of Albany wind tower assembly facility– with positive knock-on effects in terms of economic development for surrounding communities This will mean more green jobs for New Yorkers, especially important for those working in fossil fuel-reliant industries, alongside more -and better- clean energy for New York homes and businesses.
- Clean Energy Procurement
The last major tranche of climate investments in the Build Back Better Act framework is incentives for the government to take the lead on essential climate investments through their procurement processes, a.k.a. their purchasing power. These incentives are targeted at government purchasing of next gen technologies such as long-duration storage, small modular reactors, and clean construction materials.
What this means
Clean energy procurement incentives will help push New York State and local governments across New York to continue to lead on the climate crisis, as they have for much of the last five years. These government-backed early investments in next gen technologies will simultaneously help our governments become greener institutions while helping to speed up access to better, more affordable clean energy technology for New York residents and businesses down the line.
While the Build Back Better Act includes once-in-a-lifetime climate commitments, it is important to note that these historic investments are not just limited to climate. The bill tackles many key issues facing our society today, from education and labor to childcare, healthcare, and immigration. The bill in its entirety has been constructed to benefit all Americans, largely created through the lens of improving the environment and minimizing inequity in regard to race and class. The benefits of this plan described above only begin to explain all of the ways in which New York’s economy, environment, and people will be better off if this act is passed. No matter what specific sector the bill is discussing, equity, sustainability, and a flourishing economy are held as equally important factors taken into consideration.
While we still have a ways to go, NYLCV thanks President Biden alongside Senator Schumer, Congressman Jeffries, and the members of the New York Congressional Delegation who have been fighting tirelessly for these essential provisions
By Katherine Netti and Reyna Cohen