I have been fighting for our climate and a viable biosphere for almost 25 years. And finally, in 2022, the US Congress passed the largest climate investments in the history of the United States.
Not a single Republican vote
The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) was dramatically approved in both chambers without one single Republican vote. The legislation—with a climate budget of $369 billion—includes investments in environmental justice, clean energy, family-sustaining jobs, and a crucial 40-percent reduction of climate emissions by 2030.
The legislation will invest hundreds of billions of dollars in tax credits for clean energy like solar and wind, clean transportation, decarbonized buildings, and clean manufacturing here in the US—all sectors of the economy that employ millions of Latino workers. According to the BlueGreen Alliance, the IRA will create 9 million jobs in the next decade, including 5 million in fostering clean energy, 900,000 in the clean energy industry, and 150,000 in environmental justice, which we Latinos so desperately need.
Also of great importance for Latinos is the fact that the Inflation Reduction Act includes resources for frontline communities to clean up decades of pollution and to finance clean energy projects.
The legislation, however, also contains a heavy burden of dirty energy projects, opening up 20 million acres of public lands and 600 million acres of federal waters to oil and gas exploitation over the next 10 years. This is of particular concern to frontline communities like those in the Gulf South that have long been disproportionately affected by fossil fuel pollution. Sacrifice zones have no place in a climate bill. Moreover, it imposes great obstacles for the development of solar and wind on those lands and waters.
This is but one more example of the enormous influence the fossil fuel industry has imposed on Washington and the public at large. A recent BBC documentary showcases the catastrophic sway PR firms, funded by the dirty energy industry, have had in “seeding doubt everywhere” about the climate crisis by using the same tactics the tobacco industry used to hide the lethality of its products. Today, we all are paying the price of this deception campaign.
A planetary emergency
But now no one can hide that we are living in a planetary emergency and that clean energy is the solution to this crisis. According to the influential International Energy Agency, the most advanced solar projects around the world generate “the cheapest electricity in history,” but adds that to achieve global zero emissions will require “unprecedented” efforts from every part of the world economy.
Yet much cheaper clean, renewable energy is widespread. According to an International Renewable Energy Agency study, the overall costs of the sector have plunged by 71 percent since 2010. The firm TransitionZero concludes that now it’s cheaper to transition from coal to renewables than from coal to gas. And a Stanford University report indicates that the world can adopt 100 percent renewable energy and recover its investment in only six years.
We only have to open the window to realize that we live in a climate emergency. A report sponsored by The Guardian warns that global heating is fostering extreme climate worldwide at “astonishing speed.” “The analysis of hundreds of scientific studies,” it adds, “demonstrates beyond any doubt how humanity’s vast carbon emissions are forcing the climate to disastrous new extremes.”
All those who have opposed climate action for decades must ask themselves the following question: “Am I ready to tell my children they were born a generation too late?”
I am most definitely not, because the fight continues.
Javier Sierra writes the monthly bilingual column "Sierra & Tierra. Follow him on Twitter @javier_SC
Focusing primarily on social justice issues and respect for human rights, I assist non-profit organizations willing to establish a dialogue with the US largest minority, the Latino community, and to promote the respect for human rights internationally.