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Climate Change: US Takes Step Closer To Passing ‘Historic’ Bill

The United States has taken a step closer to approving Democrats’ plan to tackle climate change, with a crucial bill expected to be passed next week.

The $369bn (£305bn) for climate action is part of a package called the Inflation Reduction Act.

The legislation aims to help reduce US carbon emissions by 40% by 2030.

It looked set to advance after a Senate test vote of 51 to 50 on Saturday. The House, where Democrats have a majority, could approve it on Friday.

Some Republicans have said they will try to stall or block the progress of the bill, which also includes $64bn for health care. The test vote in the Senate fell along party lines, with not one Republican backing the bill.

Democratic Senator Ron Wyden said the legislation would “give public service a good name”. But Florida’s Republican Senator Marco Rubio argued the bill was out of touch as it doesn’t help lower prices for working people or “keep criminals in jail”.

The legislation would be the largest investment yet in clean energy by the US. However, it’s a scaled-down version of a far broader measure that many Democrats had hoped to approve last year.

Congress on Saturday debated a revised version, after compromises were agreed with two key Democratic holdouts, Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

Mr Manchin had feared the original bill would have exacerbated inflation. 

Industry measures in the bill include tax credits for clean energy development that will help with the high upfront costs. A new $27bn “clean energy technology accelerator” will be created to help advance renewable technologies.

Meanwhile, some households could receive up to $7,500 in tax credit to buy an electric car, and $4,000 for a used car. 

There will also be $60bn given to communities that have suffered the most from fossil fuel pollution.

President Joe Biden – who has called the bill “historic” – has pledged to return the US to the international stage on climate action. In April last year, he pledged to slash US greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% by 2030.

Last month, he announced $2.2bn to help build infrastructure that can withstand extreme weather and natural disasters.

The US has been hit by deadly flooding and wildfires in recent years.

Climate change increases the risk of the hot, dry weather that is likely to fuel wildfires.

The world has already warmed by about 1.1C since the industrial era began and temperatures will keep rising unless governments around the world make steep cuts to emissions.

The US is back in the climate battle

This isn’t the all-singing, all-dancing climate mega-bill Joe Biden promised when he became president – but if it passes it will be the most ambitious action the US has taken to try to stop the planet overheating. 

And the indirect impact could be even more consequential.

President Biden’s climate envoy, Senator John Kerry, has been tireless in his efforts to persuade other countries to raise their ambitions on climate change.

But the US faced a credibility gap.

“You can’t preach temperance from a bar stool”, is how one Democratic Senator put it.

What he means is you can’t ask India, China or Brazil to cut emissions unless you are doing so yourself. 

With America leading by example, the hope is international efforts to tackle global warming will be revitalised.

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