Turn on the evening news and it immediately becomes clear that Americans are experiencing the effects of climate change. Extreme heat and drought affect tens of millions of people, while floods and wildfires ravage communities from Appalachians to California. In the coming days, Congress has a chance to address the climate crisis while strengthening our nation’s energy security, creating business opportunities and improving Americans’ lives. We can’t afford to miss it.
The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 is arguably the most important piece of climate legislation in U.S. history. It represents our best opportunity to build an energy future that is cleaner, cheaper and safer. Senators Chuck Schumer of New York and Joe Manchin of West Virginia deserve a lot of credit for reaching this agreement, as do countless others. Many business leaders and activists I’ve come to know through Breakthrough Energy, the climate organization I founded in 2015 to accelerate the clean energy transition, have worked relentlessly for decades toward this moment. But while it looks like the legislation will be passed, success isn’t guaranteed, so it’s critical to keep pushing for it. Let me explain why.
Many of the technologies we need to achieve net-zero emissions do not exist, are in early development, or are still too expensive to scale. At the same time, more mature technologies such as solar, wind and electric vehicles need to be deployed more quickly in more places. Through new and comprehensive tax cuts and a long-term approach, this bill would ensure that critical climate solutions receive continued support to develop into new industries.
These incentives would also give the private sector the confidence to invest for the long term. This legislation would begin to transform the parts of our economy that are most difficult to decarbonize, such as manufacturing, which we need to do to achieve net-zero emissions. With many Americans dealing with summer blackouts, power shortages and high electricity bills, these measures would help build a modern, reliable electrical grid so that everyone has access to affordable, abundant and clean energy.
With those incentives and investments, this bill would usher in a new era of American innovation. The ability of US universities and industries to innovate remains unparalleled, but the country risks falling behind as other countries race to build their own clean energy economies. This legislation would help turn US energy innovations into US energy industries and unlock huge economic opportunities in the energy market. If it becomes law, few countries would have the capacity to produce homegrown clean energy like the United States. America could quickly become a leader in deploying clean energy on the scale required.
The climate and the world are changing. What challenges will the future bring and how should we respond to them?
American companies are ready for this change. I’ve spoken to business leaders who want our government to take action. Many have made big climate promises and invested significant amounts in clean energy, both because they keep their promises and because it’s good business. More companies are waiting on the sidelines for a strong signal from the government that clean industries are a solid long-term investment. Passing the Inflation Reduction Act would get that message across and empower private capital to boost our clean energy future with even greater confidence.
With President Biden’s signature, this legislation would jump-start and support clean energy industries that could create millions of jobs, many in communities built by fossil fuels. In fact, many of the most promising technologies in the clean energy economy will require similar skills and expertise that today’s coal, oil and gas workers possess. This contributes to a fair transition.
Solving climate change may be the most difficult challenge humanity has ever faced. It requires a fundamental transformation of the way we power our communities, move goods, build things, heat and cool buildings and grow food – in fact, how we do everything. We must act quickly with a cohesive and coherent plan if we are to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
The country has an opportunity to set an example by offering a vision of what is possible – and then making it happen. By passing this legislation, Congress would mark a moment when, despite the many challenges facing the nation, lawmakers in Washington acted with ambition and foresight to build a cleaner, healthier and more prosperous future. Let’s get it done.
Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, is also the founder of Breakthrough Energy and the author of “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster”.