Adaptation

Biden's infrastructure bill includes $50 billion to fight climate change disasters

Key Points
  • President Joe Biden on Monday signed a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that includes historic funding to protect the country against the detrimental affects of human-caused climate change.
  • The bill does little to curb planet warming emissions and falls short of the investments scientists say are necessary to prepare for the worst impacts of climate change.
  • It clears the way for Congress to advance the core of Biden's climate agenda — the Build Back Better Act, which designates $555 billion to aggressively combat climate change and cut greenhouse gas emissions.
US President Joe Biden reacts during a meeting on "the Build Back Better World (B3W)", as part of the World Leaders' Summit of the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, on November 2, 2021.
Brendan Smialowski | AFP | Getty Images

President Joe Biden on Monday signed a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that includes historic funding to protect the country against the detrimental affects of human-caused climate change.

The infrastructure bill designates $50 billion for climate resilience and weatherization, as more frequent and severe droughts, heat waves, floods and wildfires ravage the the country. For instance, it allocates financial resources for communities that are recovering from or vulnerable to disasters, and increases funding for Federal Emergency Management Agency and Army Corps of Engineers programs that help reduce flood risk and damage. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will also receive additional funding for wildfire modelling and forecasting.

Last year, a record number of disasters caused $95 billion in damages, according to the NOAA, and that record is forecast to be broken in 2021.

Other environmental and climate-related investments in the legislation include:

  • $65 billion for clean energy and grid-related investments
  • $7.5 billion to build a national network of charging stations for electric vehicles
  • $55 billion to expand access to clean drinking water
  • $21 billion to clean up Superfund and brownfield sites and cap orphaned oil and gas wells.

Biden's infrastructure funding signals how the federal government is acknowledging and addressing climate change as a current systemic threat to the entire economy. More than 20 federal agencies last month published climate adaptation plans revealing the biggest threats climate change poses to their operations and facilities and how they plan to handle them.

Still, the infrastructure bill does little to curb planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions. It also falls short of the level of investment scientists say is necessary to adequately prepare for the worst consequences of climate change. Studies indicate that climate adaptation could cost the U.S. tens or hundreds of billions of dollars each year by mid-century.

It does, however, clear the way for Congress to advance the core of Biden's climate agenda — the Build Back Better Act, which designates $555 billion to aggressively combat climate change and cut emissions in half over the next decade. The House aims to pass its version of the bill this week. 

"This is scene one of a two-act play," said Manish Bapna, president and CEO of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

"It sets the stage for Congress to pass the Build Back Better Act," Bapna said. "That's the centerpiece of President Biden's strategy to drive equitable recovery with climate action in a moment the country urgently needs both."

The last U.S. push to pass climate legislation was in 2009, when congressional Democrats failed to approve a carbon pricing system under former President Barack Obama. Former President Donald Trump essentially halted progress on climate change by reversing more than 100 environmental rules and pulling the country out of the Paris climate accord.

Long negotiations between Democrats and Republicans in Washington led to a slimmed down version of Biden's plan. The president slashed his original proposal to spend $2.3 trillion on fixing infrastructure and mitigating climate change in more than half.

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