US President Joe Biden’s climate policy, a key part of his $3.5trn bill, could be heavily cut thanks to Democratic senator Joe Manchin, ahead of the COP26 summit in November.
The senator from West Virginia has stated that he will not support the Clean Electricity Performance Program. This program, costing $350bn, would enable energy companies to transition away from fossil fuels.
But the plan, seen as one of the most extensive pieces of climate legislation ever proposed in the US, is at risk as it is supported by only a narrow majority in Congress. To pass, it will need every Democrat to vote in favour of it, with senator Manchin the biggest obstacle to this result. Arizona senator Kyrsten Sinema is also threatening to vote against the bill.
There are fears that the bill will not be passed in time for the climate summit in Glasgow, and by its deadline of 31st October. Concerns are being raised that other major emitters such as China will not commit to more climate action if the US is not able to improve its current climate policy.
The US still hopes to cut emission by half by 2030, from 2005 levels. If this bill passes without the necessary climate spending, that seems much less likely.
He plans to gut Biden's climate plan, and with it the chances for swift global progress.
This is high on the list of most consequential actions ever taken by an individual Senator; you'll be able to see the impact of this vain man in the geologic record. https://t.co/6ReMn8ZGdp
— Bill McKibben (@billmckibben) October 15, 2021
Climate activist Bill McKibben criticised Manchin’s efforts to cut the climate spending from the bill, believing it will have powerful long-term effects on the world’s climate.
A spokesperson for Manchin said: “Senator Manchin has clearly expressed his concerns about using taxpayer dollars to pay private companies to do things they’re already doing. He continues to support efforts to combat climate change while protecting American energy independence and ensuring our energy reliability.”
The senator, who is very much on the right of the Democratic party, has stated that he fears the spending bill will cause “an entitlement society”. The bill has already been negotiated from $3.5trn down to $2.2trn in social spending. He also hopes to cut social care policies within the bill, such as an expanded child tax credit and paid family medical leave.
However, some other climate measures will stay in the bill regardless, including funding for renewable energy tax credits and electric vehicle charging stations.
At the same time, environmental activists are continuing their week-long protest at the Capitol in Washington.
Related articles: UN Warns That Countries Are Failing to Meet Paris Agreement Goals | Are the United States Underprepared for COP26? | Biden’s Make-Or-Break Moment
Blocking Biden’s climate policy: Manchin’s vested interests – a threat to ecosystems worldwide
The unfortunate reality is that Manchin voting against this bill could have major global implications. Current climate pledges set us on a path to 2.7 degrees above pre-industrial levels, according to UN analysis. This would lead to a potential breakdown of ecosystems worldwide, as well as an unprecedented number of natural disasters. Climate politics go beyond the countries they are decided in: as we all live on the same planet, major legislation puts us in a much better position to fight back.
Senator Manchin’s refusal to back parts of the bill are not really due to his belief in letting companies run themselves. Instead, he is a man with very strong ties to the fossil fuel industry. The senator has personally made $5.2m from his coal company, and has accepted $400,000 from donors in the energy industry.
What’s more, Manchin is one of the US politicians who was found to have had weekly meetings with lobbyists for the fossil fuel company ExxonMobil, according to a leaked interview. These meetings took place so that ExxonMobil could persuade moderates like Manchin to block climate policies that would hurt the company’s bottom line.
So while climate policy in the US is effectively being stalled by just one man, he has the backing of an entire industry. It’s upsetting to see fossil fuel companies blocking important steps on climate legislation for the sake of short-term profit. It’s also unnerving that Manchin receiving massive fossil fuel donations is completely legal.
America’s tax code is rigged in favor of dirty fossil fuels and Big Oil. It's time to bring our energy tax credits into the 21st century to promote clean energy jobs and renewable energy. Today I'm introducing my bill to do it.
— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) April 21, 2021
Making the market work towards climate action
An important reason why there hasn’t been more climate action in recent years, is because it hasn’t been profitable for energy companies and for the market as a whole.
This spending bill does include some amount of legislation to help with this, but some Democrats, including Ron Wyden, have been pushing for a carbon tax. However, some do not think Biden will want to commit to changes in tax policy.
More market-oriented policies, including the carbon tax and the carbon market, could be a good way to move energy companies away from fossil fuels. If it becomes more profitable to move away from fossil fuels, it vastly improves the likelihood that companies will do so.
It is absolutely vital that this bill passes with its climate policies fully intact for the US to make any meaningful progress on the climate crisis. It would also be an important step for the world, moving us closer to lowering temperatures, making a green transition more likely and making real progress at COP26 much more likely.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by Impakter.com columnists are their own, not those of Impakter.com. — In the Featured Photo: US President Joe Biden. Featured Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore.