The recently passed omnibus spending bill, which was passed together with COVID response funding and relief checks, included major bipartisan climate action. Key leaders called it the most important climate legislation to pass through Congress in more than a decade.

In our first Earth Intelligence News Brief, we report on the details and explore what this means for a new direction in bipartisan climate action, as we head into 2021.

Don Shelby reports the news: The omnibus spending bill—to provide funding for US government operations—included key climate measures, winning bipartisan support. Those measures include:

  • Continuation of the Production Tax Credit and Investment Tax Credit for wind and solar energy.
  • $35.2 billion in funding for research and development of new clean energy and low-emissions energy technologies.
  • Funding for carbon capture and direct air capture of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Expanded and continued tax incentives for energy efficiency in buildings and retrofits.
  • Major support for transportation and agriculture, which could be used to leverage expanded or new incentives—which could support new clean electric transport infrastructure, biofuels, and other innovations.
  • And the most powerful breakthrough: a commitment in federal law to phase out HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons)—some of the most potent global heating gases.

Scientific analysis shows that phasing out HFCs could achieve a 0.5ºC reduction in overall global heating—which could be the difference between a strained but livable world and a chaotic and dangerous world of persistent drought, harvest collapse, food scarcity, worsening natural disasters and conflict.

For comment, we turn to Joe Robertson, who is not only a lead contributor to Earth Intelligence, but Citizens’ Climate International Director. What role did Citizens’ Climate volunteer lobbyists play in making this bipartisan breakthrough happen?

Joe’s analysis runs as follows:

People — After hundreds of Citizens’ Climate Lobby volunteers met with their lawmakers in June (virtually, in line with COVID safety measures), three specific bills that became part of the omnibus bill all saw a surge in co-sponsorship. When lawmakers hear directly from the people they represent that these policies are meaningful to them, they understand better how they can get involved, and look for ways to support climate solutions. That is part of the story behind this bill.

Pragmatism — What we are also seeing is an increasingly practical approach to the politics of climate, and a recognition that doing the right thing on climate is in the national interest. We are facing multiple converging crises, and Congress is finding ways to address these crises—maybe not fast enough or aggressively enough for some, but getting started.

Pollution reduction — The phase out of HFCs is a major breakthrough and a very solid foundation for what could become the most ambitious national climate action strategy in the world. What is important is that we need to see politicians from all perspectives across the political landscape come together in recognition that addressing the climate crisis is not about ideology; it is a major national concern, beyond party politics, and getting it right will avoid countless future disasters and related emergency spending.