Turn on the evening news and it becomes immediately clear that Americans are feeling the effects of climate change. Extreme heat and drought are affecting tens of millions of people, as floods and wildfires ravage communities from Appalachia to California. In the coming days, Congress has an opportunity to address the climate crisis while strengthening our nation’s energy security, creating opportunity for business, and improving the lives of Americans. We cannot afford to miss it.
The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 is perhaps the most important climate legislation in American history. It represents our best chance to build a cleaner, cheaper and safer energy future. Senators Chuck Schumer of New York and Joe Manchin of West Virginia deserve much credit for reaching this agreement, like countless others. Many business leaders and activists I have known through Breakthrough Energy, the climate organization I founded in 2015 to accelerate the clean energy transition, have worked tirelessly for decades for this moment. But even if it looks like the legislation will pass, success is not guaranteed, so it is essential to keep pushing for it to pass. Let me explain why.
Many of the technologies we will need to achieve net zero emissions do not exist, are in the early stages of development, or are still too expensive to scale up. At the same time, more mature technologies such as solar, wind and electric vehicles need to be deployed faster in more places. Through new and expanded tax credits and a long-term approach, this bill would ensure that critical climate solutions receive sustained support to expand 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 hardest to decarbonise, such as manufacturing, which is what we need to do to achieve net zero emissions. As many Americans face summer blackouts, power shortages, and high electric bills, these measures would help build a modern, reliable power grid so everyone can have access to clean energy. affordable, plentiful and clean.
With these incentives and investments, this bill would catalyze a new era of American innovation. The ability of American universities and industries to innovate remains unmatched, but the country risks falling behind as other countries race to build their own clean energy economies. This legislation would help transform American energy innovations into American energy industries and open up huge economic opportunities in the energy market. If this became law, few nations would have the capacity to produce 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 have spoken with business leaders who are very keen for our government to take action. Many have made big climate promises and invested large sums in clean energy, both because they care about keeping their promises and because it’s good business. Even 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 Cut Inflation Act would send that message and allow private capital to supercharge our clean energy future with even greater confidence.
With President Biden’s signature, this legislation would kick-start and support clean energy industries that could create millions of jobs, many of them in communities that were built on fossil fuels. In fact, many of the most promising technologies in the clean energy economy will require skills and expertise similar to those possessed by coal, oil and gas workers today. This will help ensure a fair transition.
Solving climate change is perhaps the most difficult challenge humanity has ever faced. It will require fundamentally transforming the way we power our communities, transport goods, build things, heat and cool buildings, and grow food – basically, how we do everything. We must do this quickly with a cohesive and coherent plan if we are to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
The country has an opportunity to lead by 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 do it.
Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, is also the founder of Breakthrough Energy and the author of “How to Avoid Climate Catastrophe”.