Sustainability Blog

Moral Combat: US Senate Passes Billion-dollar Package to Combat Global Warming

By Apurva Gosalia - Aug 08, 2022

The best-selling video game and film franchise “Mortal Kombat” is known for its graphic violence and infamous “finishing moves,” whereby characters dispatch their opponents with devastating force. Democrats in the United States Senate may have delivered a finishing move to the Republican Party’s obstructionism in the game of political “Moral Combat.”

The world has a moral responsibility to combat climate change and yesterday the U.S. Senate might have made a huge step forward in this endeavor. Against unanimous Republican opposition and exclusively with votes from the Democratic Party and Vice President Kamala Harris, the Senate yesterday passed the most comprehensive legislation to date in the fight against climate change in the United States. 

If the bill makes it through the House of Representatives – where the Democrats’ majority is slimmer – the U.S. will invest more than $370 billion in climate and energy programs, writes the New York Times.

According to independent calculations, this could reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by more than 40 percent by the end of the decade compared to those in 2005. That would be significantly more than achievable under current regulations.

In the U.S. media, the decision is seen as a major and surprising success for the Democrats ahead of the upcoming midterm elections. Until a few days ago, it looked as if the opposition within the party to the package would be insurmountable. 

Joe Manchin, one of the senators from West Virginia, had torpedoed all attempts to do so. He was now able to push through, among other things, the construction of a gas pipeline through his home state, explains the New York Times. Manchin had previously derailed a more than $2 trillion investment and climate change package, and until the surprise agreement on the “Inflation Reduction Act of 2022,” it had looked like it would not be followed by an ambitious package.

Passed on Sunday, the legislative package is intended to use billions in tax breaks to ensure that more electric cars are bought in the U.S. and more solar and wind power plants are built. 

It also provides for billions of dollars in support for areas that are particularly hard hit by climate change. This is to be financed, among other things, by a minimum tax for large companies of 15 percent. In addition, various changes are to be made to the U.S. healthcare system to reduce costs for patients, i.e., the legislation touches the ecological, as well as the social dimension of sustainability.

According to reports, the U.S. House of Representatives intends to interrupt its summer recess to give its approval to the package this week. Then U.S. President Joe Biden could sign it into law. Biden – who has called the bill “historic” – has pledged to return the US to the international stage on climate action. In April last year, he pledged to slash U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% by 2030. Last month, he announced $2.2bn to help build infrastructure that can withstand extreme weather and natural disasters. The US has been hit by deadly flooding and wildfires in recent years.

After pumping his fists in the air, Democratic Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer said “after more than a year of hard work, the senate is making history. To Americans who’ve lost faith that Congress can do big things, this bill is for you,” he added.

Senator Brian Schatz, a Democrat from Hawaii, reportedly cried tears of joy as he left the chamber. “Now I can look my kid in the eye and say we’re really doing something about the climate,” he said according to the New York Times.

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