The American Jobs Plan aims to rebuild the US economy better, greener and more resilient after COVID-19 while creating millions of jobs. The USD2 trillion proposal can help President Joe Biden achieve his goals of zero-carbon electricity by 2035 and net-zero emissions by 2050 – but enacting such an ambitious plan will be challenging.

The president wants to establish the US as a leader in climate science, innovation and R&D in areas including energy-storage, carbon-capture, hydrogen, offshore wind and electric vehicles with 40 per cent of the benefits of climate and clean infrastructure investments to be felt by disadvantaged communities.

The jobs plan aims to invest USD621 billion making 20,000 miles of roads, 10,000 bridges, and rail and transport systems more resilient to climate-change risks. Some USD25 billion will be spent on airports and USD17 billion on waterways and ports to position the US as a global leader in clean freight and aviation.

Tax incentives will make electric vehicles more affordable with a national network of 500,000 chargers by 2030, while 50,000 diesel transit vehicles are replaced and the US federal fleet is electrified along with yellow school buses.

This year’s power outages in Texas showed the vulnerabilities of electricity grids to climate-related risks. The plan thus aims to create a more resilient energy grid, lower costs, improve air quality and create jobs. A focus on renewables is also evident, aligning with the president’s most recent goal to have 30GW of offshore wind turbines by 2030.

The plan reiterates the president’s campaign promise for disadvantaged communities to feel 40 per cent of the benefits of climate and clean infrastructure investments. This includes abandoned oil and gas wells and mines to be cleaned up plus hydrogen and carbon-capturing technologies.

Another USD111 billion will be spent on water infrastructure, replacing all lead pipes and updating ageing water systems with a focus on disadvantaged communities. The American Jobs Plan follows other nations, including the UK and many EU countries, that have incorporated green policies into their pandemic-recovery programmes, but with a plan as ambitious as this, the president should expect a turbulent road to enactment. The White House proposals will face scrutiny and debate over coming months and it is likely to take time to build consensus.

Nonetheless, with almost USD100 billion in losses from climate-related events last year, the need for resilient infrastructure is clear.

First published 1 April 2021.

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