One year ago, Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), the most significant bill ever to tackle climate chaos created by burning dirty fossil fuels. Critics have claimed that this groundbreaking law would harm the economy, but thanks to this affordable clean energy plan, Washington has already seen nearly $1.9 billion in new investments and 870 new jobs–and that’s just the beginning!
From electrifying transportation and building clean energy infrastructure to wildlife conservation and adaptation projects that help Tribes and other communities respond to rising seas and wildfires, this federal bill helps our state move closer to a cleaner energy future. These measures curb climate-warming pollution, of course. But they also create quality jobs. They help those in low-income communities and communities of color, who disproportionately breathe polluted air and suffer the worst effects of carbon emissions, like the residents of South Park, who suffered climate-fueled flooding last December.
As CEO of Washington Conservation Action, one of the leading state environmental nonprofits, I work to protect people and nature as one. I believe these programs do just that.
Responding to climate chaos is part of acknowledging that we are not separate from nature. When we provide funds to help the planet, we also help people. We build enterprises that reimagine our relationship to the natural systems that sustain us. Providing jobs does not have to mean despoiling ecosystems. If we are to meet the challenges of a warming world, we must learn to meet our needs in ways that work in harmony with rivers and oceans, with wildlife and forests, with prairies and deserts.
The Biden Administration’s affordable clean energy plan jumpstarts this process by helping us all save money right now. Whether you want to weatherize your home, upgrade to a new heat pump, buy an electric car, install solar panels, or get more efficient appliances, you can save thousands.
With all these benefits in mind, it’s no wonder that so many of us support this clean energy plan. According to recent polling, 75% of Americans think it’s important to increase clean energy use, including 55% of Republicans. Voters overwhelmingly want to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.
Rightly so. The climate crisis is happening right now. It affects our partners and our communities around the state: Smoke from wildfires made more intense by increasing temperatures is unhealthy for all of us. On the Olympic peninsula, the Quinault Nation must move the entire town of Taholah because rising seas are making the original site uninhabitable.
Our summers are getting hotter, longer, and more dangerous. In 2021, we lost more than 400 Washingtonians due to extreme heat. In July, during the hottest month ever recorded, a drought emergency was declared for 12 Washington counties.
In Washington, D.C., Congress is now working on major spending packages and on the national farm bill. Federal agencies are finalizing pollution rules for power plants, cars, buildings, and trucks. We need them to be as strong as possible.
At the state level, the Washington Conservation Action team is working to make sure that the more than $2 billion in funds generated by our new cap-and-invest law are spent wisely. We’re working on new approaches to forestry that store carbon. We’re making sure that climate considerations are built into urban planning, that we don’t needlessly invest in more fossil fuel infrastructure, and that communities struggling with the health effects of air pollution get help.
One year ago, Washington Conservation Action organized thousands to contact their representatives to urge passage of the IRA. In response to these and other efforts, Congress did something that so many, for so long, thought was impossible: It created a major, national initiative to address the problems created by burning fossil fuels.
All this is good–more is needed.
Every new wind turbine built, every solar panel installed, and every electric vehicle that rolls off the line, will power a better future. Now it’s up to us all to make sure this is truly just the beginning.
Alyssa Macy (citizen of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Spring Oregon) is CEO of Washington Conservation Action.