The US Senate has approved a bill aimed at allocating $369 billion to combat climate change, the largest investment in US history.
The authors of the bill, known as the “Inflation Reduction Act,” say it will reduce the country’s carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2030.
Some families can get up to $7,500 in tax credits to purchase an electric car and $4,000 to purchase a used car.
The bill, a major topic on President Joe Biden’s agenda, will now be presented in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives.
The bill is expected to be supported as soon as this week, before Biden ratifies it into law.
The BBC’s North America correspondent Peter Bowes said that with the US midterm elections looming, passing the law would be seen as a huge boost for Democrats.
The United States has been hit by massive floods and wildfires in recent years.
Climate change increases the risk of hot, dry weather that has the potential to fuel wildfires.
The world has already warmed by about 1.1°C since the start of the industrial age, and temperatures will continue to rise unless governments around the world make sharp cuts in emissions.
A man holds a tree branch after putting out a forest fire near Cusco, Peru, October 2020
After a marathon session, Democrats were overjoyed after the bill, the product of 18 months of intense debate, passed the Senate.
It is expected to raise corporate taxes and cut health care costs as part of a package that exceeds $ 700 billion, which the White House says it will pay itself.
Democrats negotiated for months to ensure the bill would have the support of every one of the party’s 50 senators, a condition for its passage in the Senate, along with a vote by Vice President Kamala Harris.
Nevertheless, the resulting consensus is largely a microcosm of a more comprehensive measure that many Democrats hoped to pass last year.
“After more than a year of hard work, the Senate is making history,” said Chuck Schumer, the Senate Democratic majority leader.
“For Americans who have lost faith in the ability of Congress to get big things done, this bill is for you,” he added.
Senator Brian Schatz, a Democrat from Hawaii, reportedly cried with tears of joy as he left the hall.
“Now I can look my son in the eye and tell him we’re really doing something for the climate,” he said, according to the New York Times.
Some Republicans said they would try to block progress on the bill, which also includes $64 billion for health care.
“The Senate makes history,” said Chuck Schumer, the Senate Democratic majority leader.
On Saturday, Congress debated a revised version of the legislation, after agreeing concessions with two prominent Democrats against the legislation, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kirsten Sinema of Arizona.
Manchin feared that the original bill would exacerbate inflation.
Industry-specific measures in the bill include tax exemptions for developing clean energy, which will help with the high initial costs of projects based on this type of energy. A $27 billion “Clean Energy Technology Accelerator” will also be established to help develop renewable technologies.
And $60 billion will be given to the communities that have suffered the most from pollution from fossil fuel use.
President Joe Biden – who has called the bill “historic” – has pledged to bring the United States back on the international stage on climate action.
And in April last year, he pledged to cut US greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent by 2030.
Last month, he announced $2.2 billion to help build infrastructure that can withstand severe weather and natural disasters.
Honduran firefighters wear protective suits, but sometimes resort to blowing tree branches in flames
The United States is back in the climate battle
analysis:Justin Rowlatt, Climate Editor
It’s not the massive climate bill Joe Biden promised when he became president – but if it passes it would be the most ambitious action the United States has taken to try to halt global warming.
The indirect effect may be more significant.
President Biden’s climate envoy, Senator John Kerry, is working tirelessly to persuade other nations to raise their ambitions on climate change.
But the United States faced a credibility gap. “You can’t preach asceticism sitting on a bar stool (drinking wine),” said one Democratic senator.
What he means is that you can’t ask India, China or Brazil to cut emissions, unless you do it first.
With the United States set to lead by example, there is renewed hope that international efforts to tackle global warming will be revived.