Fulfilling Our Climate Crisis Commitments
Op-ed by Julissa Reynoso, US Ambassador to Spain, published in El País, August 29, 2022 (in Spanish)
Since my arrival in Spain, I have been impressed by the strong commitment Spaniards have shown to addressing climate change. The United States is also committed to doing what is necessary to meet the urgency of the climate crisis. On his first day in office, President Biden brought the United States back to the Paris Climate Accords. He then hosted a Leader’s Climate Summit in April that year, in which he committed to reduce U.S. emissions by 50 to 52 percent below 2005 levels in 2030. Two months later, the United States, along with other G-7 members, pledged to end direct government support for unabated international thermal coal power generation by the end of 2021 and to provide up to $2 billion to support developing countries in their transition from coal. Last week, President Biden and the U.S. Congress made history and took an even further-reaching action addressing the climate crisis.
In signing the historic Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, President Biden is now leading the single most aggressive action the United States has ever undertaken to create clean energy solutions in the U.S. economy and reduce our carbon emissions.
This law invests $369 billion in clean energy and infrastructure programs and puts the United States on track to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2030 and reach net-zero emissions by no later than 2050. It ensures that clean energy opportunities reach all Americans and cuts energy costs. On average, every family in the United States will save $500 per year on their energy bills as they purchase more energy efficient appliances, upgrade their home energy systems, and purchase electric vehicles. Imagine the excitement of a young couple who, through tax credits can afford to install solar panels on their roofs saving them hundreds of dollars a year forever. Additionally, the law not only supports innovation, resilience, and access to affordable and accessible clean energy, but it also emphasizes the needs of those communities that are marginalized, underserved, and overburdened, thereby advancing environmental justice. The law delivers results that create new possibilities for prosperity and security.
This bill does more than just put the United States on a path to meet its climate goals – which alone leads to global benefits. It also mobilizes and incentivizes the private sector, including Spanish companies with their significant track records in clean energy, to explore new opportunities and invest in the host of sectors touched by this law including manufacturing, solar, wind farms, off shore and clean hydrogen. The tax credits created by the law will generate tens of thousands of employment opportunities including clean energy manufacturing jobs. Next month, the United States will host the Clean Energy Ministerial and the Ministerial for Mission Integration in Pittsburgh, a city with a legacy energy and industrial economy that has transformed itself into a clean tech and innovation powerhouse. In Pittsburgh, the United States, Spain, and 29 other countries will lock in climate commitments through big bets on innovation and provide new opportunities for our industrial workforce with great jobs in clean energy, infrastructure, and technology.
Passing this legislation wasn’t easy, but the voice of the majority of the American people was heard, through their elected representatives, and the United States is now on its way to meeting its climate goals. At the Summit of Democracy last year which was also attended by President Sanchez, President Biden quoted long-serving U.S. Congressman and civil rights activist John Lewis, affirming “Democracy is not a state, it is an act.” Through the passage and enactment of this legislation – these democratic acts – we not only fulfill our commitments toward a global problem, but we show the world that democracy can deliver.
In my time working with President and Dr. Biden at the White House, I saw first-hand how his focus on individual, working families’ well-being motivates the President’s decisions and is central to not only U.S. domestic policy, but U.S. foreign policy as well. The President is showing the world that democracy works and can deliver prosperity and security, not just for the privileged few, but for all citizens. Our next task, therefore, is to convince the rest of the world to take similar actions—not just make promises—to meet our shared climate goals. As we approach November’s upcoming COP27 meeting, the United States will be leading through the power of our example, along with Spain, which passed its Climate Change Law in 2021.
This summer’s headlines have been dominated by worrisome heat waves and droughts, spreading wildfires, and the challenge of inflation. But working together, democracies can come up with sustainable and practical solutions that our citizens demand, and I look forward to deepening the U.S.-Spain partnership on climate action to benefit our peoples and our planet.