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New Report Promotes ‘Quiet Climate’ Policies and Job Creation in Post COVID World

February 5, 2021 by Sara Wilkerson
A forest scene in Huntley Meadows Park, Alexandria, Virginia. (Photo by Dan McCue)

A new report from the Breakthrough Institute, an environmental research center based in California, outlines how Congress can effectively tackle climate change while creating millions of jobs in the process. The report aims to prioritize specific climate change policy goals amid a gridlocked Washington, D.C. 

In the report’s introduction, the authors note that with the recent passage of the $1.4 trillion fiscal 2021 omnibus appropriations bill amid historic partisanship, there remains a “potent signal” for the “virtue of quiet climate policy.” 

According to the Breakthrough Institute, quiet climate change policy is policy that can reduce political polarization on climate change issues while advancing critical efforts in the decarbonization of the U.S and its economy.  

“Historically, the US government has accelerated decarbonization through strategic investments in technology and infrastructure,” explains the report’s introduction.  

“Decarbonization of the American economy has depended upon the increasing affordability and scalability of lower-carbon alternatives to incumbent technologies… These were all enabled by decades of sustained, technology-specific research, development, demonstration, and deployment efforts made by the federal and state governments.” 

“Like the popular, enduring policy regimes that have driven innovation in low-carbon technologies for decades, the policies and investments detailed in this report have the potential to drive real and disruptive technological transitions that build and lock in lower-carbon energy, transportation, and agricultural systems,” continued the report. 

“What makes this moment in American politics unique is the eagerness of the federal government — in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic — to support the economy by committing potentially unprecedented resources towards science, RD&D, and infrastructure.  

“These resources can, and should be put toward low-carbon technologies and systems across all sectors of the American economy.” 

Throughout the report, the authors address specific quiet climate change policy goals by outlining the costs and possible timelines for investments in said goals, as well as the potential net gains that the job market would experience once the recommendations are implemented.  

Key highlights from the report include: 

Energy 

  • Energy Innovation – Invest approximately $68 billion – Gain 600,000+ jobs 
  • Grid Modernization – Invest $80 billion – Gain 1.5 million jobs 
  • Energy Efficiency – Invest $1.4 billion – Gain 28,000 jobs 
  • Clean Energy Subsidy Reform – Invest $55.5 billion – Gain 700,000 jobs 

Transportation 

  • EV Charging Infrastructure – Invest $4.9 billion – Gain 65,000 jobs 
  • Reinvest in Ports and Airports – Invest $20.62 billion+ – Gain 113,000 jobs 

Agriculture 

  • Agricultural Innovation – Invest approximately $10 billion – Gain 150,000+ jobs 
  • Agricultural Conservation programs – Invest $6.35 billion – Gain 98,000 jobs 
  • Sustainable US Dairy sector – Invest approximately  $768 million per year – Save up to 50,000 jobs per year – Gain 1,000 permanent and temporary jobs per year 

“With … policymakers seemingly prepared to spend unprecedented public funds on recovery and relief, the coming months and years might offer the best opportunity to accelerate innovation and investment in low-carbon infrastructure in a generation,” said Alex Trembath, deputy director at the Breakthrough Institute, in a public statement.  

When asked by The Well News what the authors hope lawmakers will take away from the report, Trembath said, “What we hope policymakers take from this report is that right now, as the United States and the world begin emerging from the COVID pandemic, is a potentially unprecedented opportunity to invest tens or hundreds of billions into low-carbon energy, transportation, and agricultural systems. They should not let this moment go to waste.

“But even in the years and decades ahead, quiet climate policy has enduring potential.

“Every Farm Bill, tax extender package, budget negotiation, and omnibus legislation carries with it the opportunity to boost and improve federal investment in low-carbon technology and infrastructure.  

“While much of the conversation around climate policy focuses on regulation and proposals for sweeping reform like the Green New Deal,” continued Trembath, “it is through quiet climate policy as we describe that the most important advances in innovation and decarbonization might come.” 

When asked for further comment on the need for quiet climate change policies, Trembath stated, “Climate change is a major challenge facing American and global societies. Confronting it will require new and improved low-carbon technologies and resilient infrastructure. 

“Those are exactly the things governments are responsible for investing in, and the focus of quiet climate policy.” 

The Breakthrough Institute’s full quiet climate change report can be read online.  

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