Big environmental wins in 2022 preview more success for the global climate movement
It’s no secret 2022 was another rough year for the climate movement. Any year we move closer to—yet stay distant from—reaching global net-zero goals is going to be a more difficult year than if polluters, lawmakers, and those in power did the right thing. Occasionally, those exact folks (typically minus the fossil fuel industry; greenwashing doesn’t count!) put the planet and its inhabitants first in spectacular fashion.
One such cause for celebration is the many climate provisions within the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) that incentivize the further development of renewables, as well as “the $369 billion the bill will allow to be invested in climate solutions, funding projects that tackle drought mitigation and resilience, offering consumers tax credits for new and used electric vehicles, providing funding to rural and marginalized communities to drive additional renewable power development, and providing tax credits for more energy efficient buildings,” that I’ve previously written about.
Also a major win for the U.S. was the establishment of the Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights, which also came from $3 million allocated for it through the IRA.
Environmental justice should be the primary focus in our just transition to renewables and net-zero future and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) aims to hold polluters accountable by working alongside frontline communities and environmental justice leaders throughout its 10 offices and more than 200 staff members. The agency will also “incorporate environmental justice into [its] programs, policies, and processes, as allowed by law.” That means working with some of the communities that EPA chief Michael Regan met during his environmental justice tour of the Gulf South, including in Louisiana’s “Cancer Alley.”
A particularly stunning victory for the community of St. James Parish came when the state refused to move forward with an application review of the long-fought Formosa Plastics facility that had been the reason the environmental justice group Rise St. James first organized. No longer will the community be threatened with the prospect of more than 2 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions generated annually by South Louisiana Methanol. Rise St. James will continue its work and I so look forward to the next set of victories they rack up against companies operating without concern for the people they will overburden.
Globally, the world saw the United Nations’ marquee climate conference COP27 establish the first loss and damage fund to assist poorer nations who emit few greenhouse gases yet face some of the most intense climate-worsened disasters. The biodiversity conference COP15 also teed up member countries for a better tomorrow through the adoption of an agreement that ensures the protection of 30% of the planet’s oceans and lands and aims to halt and reverse biodiversity loss. I’m trying not to be as skeptical as I could be that the dozens of countries agreeing to these provisions aren’t going to neglect their duties. It’s a life or death matter, and there is no time to waste when it comes to getting serious about combatting climate change.
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