A crash course on the historic IRA

A crash course on the historic IRA

Editor’s note: When someone offers to help you understand something that’s involved and complex, you jump at the offer! Dr. Parjit Kaur spent days researching and drafting this “crash course” on the most significant federal legislation ever signed into law to address climate change. We appreciate her efforts and hope you will take the extra time to learn about the Inflation Reduction Act and how you can help it succeed.

It’s the one year anniversary of the passage of the historic and landmark Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) by the Biden administration (1). The legislation contains the largest ever investment by the United States in climate change mitigation and resilience building efforts. According to national polls, however, many Americans do not understand the IRA or its provisions for businesses and consumers. It is so large and the scope so wide that it is hard even for the experts to predict or understand how different parts of this act will come together to transform our energy infrastructure. But transform it will, in major ways! 

Since the 1800s, coal has been the major source of energy for the United States and the rest of the industrialized world. It is one of the dirtiest fossil fuels, and for the last 150 years, it has literally fueled everything from trains and ships to iron, steel, and cement production and even to lighting our homes. The greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) resulting from burning coal and other fossil fuels have been slowly but consistently heating our planet. The United States is the second largest emitter of GHGs globally.

According to climate scientists and the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, our atmosphere has already warmed up by 1°C as compared to preindustrial temperatures. We now know that we cannot have the planet heated much beyond 1.5°C and still be able to adapt to the changes and prevent a total collapse of our ecosystems. The current 1°C warming is already manifesting in the form of intense heat waves, droughts, wildfires, torrential rains, and flooding the world over. These extreme events are causing untold suffering and a huge fatality rate among those caught in the middle of these crises, as seen in the tragic loss of life in Maui weeks ago. Moreover, these events are also costing the world economy billions of dollars every year. Therefore, it makes sense that we invest in preventing these events and the  loss of life and property rather than reacting to their impacts.

Many of the greenhouse gasses that result from burning fossil fuels stay in the atmosphere for at least a cenntury, so even if we stop using them today, we will still experience their heat trapping effects for a very long time. Therefore, we need to take drastic measures now to significantly curb the emission of these gasses.

This is where the Paris Climate Accord, signed by 197 nations in 2015 (2), and the climate section of the IRA, signed into law by the U.S. Congress in 2022 (1), come in. The Paris Accord provided targets that must be met by all nations to cut global GHG emissions by 50% below 2005 levels by 2030. This is essential to reach net-zero GHG emissions by 2050 and to prevent an overall increase of atmospheric temperature significantly above 1.5°C. Net-zero implies that the amount of GHGs produced will be offset by an equal amount of these gasses removed either by using sequestration technologies or reforestation efforts. 

The IRA is the first major investment that is expected to help the United States reach the Paris Accord’s targets. It contains $500 billion in new spending and tax breaks to boost clean energy, reduce healthcare costs, and increase tax revenues. This bill will be largely funded with a minimum 15% tax on corporations, and according to the Congressional Budget Office, it is also expected to lower the government deficit by $237 billion over the next 10 years.


> How will the IRA achieve its climate goals?

The IRA aims to curb GHG emissions in the U.S. by incentivizing clean energy transition at every imaginable level, ranging from deployment of renewable energy power plants and to spurring innovation in carbon capture and other related technologies. The energy portion of the IRA contains $369 billion in climate mitigation and resilience building efforts. 

As I see it, there are nine main areas where the IRA can have a major impact:

  1. Clean energy production by deploying solar, wind, and geothermal power plants and by continued support of the hydrothermal and nuclear plants until 2032. 
  2. Investment in clean hydrogen technologies.
  3. Investment in America’s clean electricity grid, upgrade of transmission lines, and improved permitting of energy infrastructure to be more efficient.
  4. Manufacture of electric vehicles (EVs), batteries, charging stations, and solar panels. 
  5. Innovations in reducing emissions from hard to decarbonize heavy industries, including cement, steel, and glass. 
  6. Innovations in carbon capture and sequestration technologies
  7. Innovations in climate-friendly agriculture methods, soil enrichment programs, and use of nature-based solutions to develop resilience to climate change. 
  8. Investments in historically underserved communities to mitigate pollution and build resilience.
  9. Incentives for individual consumers to electrifyf their cars and homes, with special incentives for low and moderate-income households.

It is estimated that by taking these actions, coal will comprise less than 10% of the fuel for power plants in the U.S. by 2030, and the GHG emissions will be cut by about 42% below the 2005 levels. The remaining reduction in emissions needed to reach the 2030 goal is expected to come from the President’s executive actions and independent actions taken by individual states. 


> Delivery of IRA funds to corporations

The IRA funds will be delivered through several mechanisms, including tax incentives, rebates, grants, and loan guarantees. Much of the climate funding is, however, in the form of tax credits, and corporations are the largest recipient of these credits. This is important because public investments in the private sector are expected to catalyze huge private investments in renewable clean energy, transport, and manufacturing. Many of the tax incentives are direct pay, which means that an organization can receive the full amount even if it owes less tax than the credit (3). This approach of the IRA relies mainly on providing incentives for clean energy rather than imposing penalties. For example, the latest EPA rule (4) proposed on May 11, 2023, under the Clean Air Act, announces new carbon pollution standards for the fossil fuel-based power industries, but, importantly, it capitalizes on these IRA incentives that can make new technologies affordable for the power plants.


> Incentives for consumers

A very large percentage of the GHG emissions in the U.S. (about 42% of total) come from vehicles and buildings. Emissions from passenger cars and homes together amount to about 23% of total U.S. emissions (5). Therefore, individual consumers have a big role to play in curbing emissions. 

The IRA will incentivize electrification of both cars and homes by providing tax credits for the next 10 years to individuals for the purchase of qualifying EVs, home EV chargers, and qualifying home improvements, including rooftop solar panels, installation of battery for solar power storage, and the exchange of gas appliances with electric ones. Tax credits for weatherizing homes, e.g., putting in insulation, better sealing of homes, and renovations, including new circuit breakers and circuit panels, are also available. The newer electric appliances (heat pumps and electric water heaters) are about three to four times more efficient than their fossil fuel counterparts and therefore use much less energy. The consumer pays the upfront cost but can take advantage of tax credits at the time of filing taxes if they owe taxes to the federal government. In early 2024, rebates will be rolled out which will reduce the upfront cost of making these changes (see below).

The key term to note here is “qualifying” EVs and “qualifying” home improvements to make them eligible for credits and subsidies. This means that there are strings attached to receiving tax credits for manufacturers and for consumers. In one example, receiving funds from the IRA and the Infrastructure bill (described later) requires that corporations remain neutral in any labor organizing activities and not engage in union busting. According to Third Act, this has already made a big impact for workers of Blue Bird corporation in Fort Valley, Georgia, where they voted in favor of joining the Steelworkers union. Furthermore, the IRA requires that to receive the full EV consumer credit, a percentage of critical minerals in the battery must be recycled in the U.S. or North America or extracted or processed in a country that has a free trade agreement with the U.S. This is meant to boost manufacturing in North America, to build a talent pool for the future clean energy economy, and to ensure that these industries follow regulations and do not cause further harm to the environment.

Starting in 2023, qualifying EVs are eligible for a tax credit of up to $7500 for new vehicles and $4000 for used vehicles. According to one analysis, these credits should bring the cost of electric passenger vehicles and light-duty trucks in line with the cost of internal combustion engine vehicles by 2025. 

Qualifying home improvements, specifically solar panels, solar water heaters, and battery storage, are eligible for a tax credit of up to 30% of the total cost with no annual maximum or lifetime limit between the years 2022-2032. Other energy efficient home improvements, including air conditioners, water heaters, insulation materials, etc. are also eligible for a tax credit up to 30% of the total cost but are capped at $1200 per year. The heat pump credit is capped at $2000 per year (3). The law also includes a $1000 tax credit for home EV charging stations. To take advantage of these tax credits, the annual household income is capped at $300,000 for a family and $150,000 for an individual. 

Together these changes will ensure that American homes and transport modes are both fully electrified, become more efficient, and produce zero carbon pollution. In the process, these improvements will save customers money and make their homes free from pollutants that result from burning gas. The beauty of these changes is that electrified homes become energy producers instead of being energy consumers. It is estimated that taking advantage of the IRA could save the average US household $1800 on its energy bills each year and reduce pollution as well as GHG emissions. 


> Low- to moderate-income households and historically underserved communities

Of the money allocated for individual consumers, billions of dollars are reserved in rebates for low- and moderate-income households to help them retrofit their homes with heat pumps and electric water heaters. These rebates will become available in early 2024 and will lower the upfront costs of solar panels and EVs as they are not tied to tax credits. According to NPR, homes that make less than 80% of the area median income will have 100% cost to electrify homes covered, up to $14,000. 

The IRA also drives critical economic investments in historically underserved communities and those living with legacy pollution through direct grant programs, bonus credits, and heavy industry clean-up funds. It advances the Justice40 initiative, an executive order signed by the President in 2021. It commits to delivering 40% of the overall benefits of certain federal investments in climate change, clean energy, clean transit, affordable and sustainable housing; training and workforce development; remediation of pollution; and development of clean water and wastewater infrastructure to marginalized and overburdened communities. These environmental justice goals will be accomplished by close collaborations with the states. In fact, under the IRA, more than $50 billion in rebates will flow through the states and green banks, which may provide a grant, a cheap loan with no interest, or a loan with a very low interest rate. The states will need to apply for these rebates in early 2024. There will be funding for state energy offices to implement the flow of money to consumers, underserved communities, municipalities, and tribal governments (6).


> The IRA and the BIL

When combined with the $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) signed in 2021, which will invest billions into upgrading the nation’s electric grid, the IRA becomes the greatest investment in energy programs in the history of this country. The BIL aims to modernize the grid, shift the grid to 80% clean electricity by 2030, and make it more resilient by placing power lines underground to prevent disruption from extreme weather events. The law also funds elevating roads and building cocoons or improved community centers in underserved, low-income, and tribal communities. Furthermore, the BIL aims to build a nation-wide network of EV chargers, strengthen the battery supply chain, and expand public transit and rail systems. Together, these two bills are expected to transform the transportation sector in the U.S.,  ranging from delivery vehicles to freight trucks to passenger cars. According to Department of Energy estimates, together the IRA and the BIL could reduce GHG emissions by a billion tons a year by 2030.


> What has the IRA achieved in its first year?

Most states are racing to take advantage of clean energy funds available in the IRA. This already involves 272 new clean energy projects (including battery, EV, wind turbine, and solar panel factories) in 44 states, with a total investment of $272 billion (7,8). A total of 170,000 new green jobs has been announced. 

According to NPR, 10 million homes in the U.S. have been electrified since the Biden administration took office. The number of EV sales has tripled, and the number of charging stations has doubled nationwide. In California, one out of four cars sold now is electric. 

But it is still very early days for the American people to feel the change that is coming. The $50 billion in rebates for low- and moderate-income households will be rolled out in early 2024 through the states and green banks. Whereas tax credits help wealthy folks, rebates do not rely on paying taxes; therefore, one doesn’t need to owe the federal government money to take advantage.

Even though the IRA passed without Republican support, the impact of the IRA has been bipartisan. Investments in Georgia are at the top – second only to Michigan – with 22 new clean energy projects, $18 billion in investment, and 16,000 new good-paying clean energy jobs over the last year. For a breakdown of the IRA investments in the top 10 states, see below.


>  Concerns and constraints of the IRA

While the IRA is the most consequential legislation for clean energy, it is not perfect and is tied to compromises, such as more offshore drilling for oil and gas as well as more drilling leases on federal lands. This is because nothing of this magnitude can pass muster in Congress without some horse trading. The fact that any climate bill passed the current Congress is surprising after the long, drawn out negotiations on the Build Back Better bill initially proposed by the Biden administration. Experts argue, however, that the overall reductions in GHG emissions will far outweigh the small increases in emissions resulting from more fossil fuel leasing (9).

There are also other concerns and constraints, such as supply chain issues and availability of critical minerals for electric batteries that could slow progress. Moreover, there is also local opposition in some states to clean energy projects, and there are at least four states (Florida, South Dakota, Iowa, Kentucky) that are disallowing IRA money to flow into these states, thus depriving their citizens and industry of the benefits of the IRA. However, according to Politico, there’s a provision in the IRA that allows the EPA to route these funds to the state’s biggest cities instead if the state turns down the money. This strategy seems to have worked in that, given the choice, most Republican states accepted IRA funding. Moreover, in the four states that are not applying for IRA funds, the biggest cities are planning to move forward. In Kentucky, for example, the three largest cities–  Louisville, Lexington, and Bowling Green – are planning to step into the state’s role. These cities will work with state agencies to create a state-wide plan, especially in the buildings and transportation sector, although a lot of smaller cities and many Kentuckians will be left out of this effort because of the lack of state support. 

Finally, a large percentage of Americans are not aware of the provisions of the IRA. Education about the IRA’s opportunities is essential to galvanize the new work force for clean energy industries and to drive participation of individual citizens to take advantage of its programs. 


> Role of individual action

In the final analysis, the IRA incentivizes a major clean energy transformation in the U.S. It will spur innovation and manufacturing and create good-paying jobs while cutting pollution, addressing climate crisis, and creating a new economy based on clean energy, American-made products, equity, and environmental justice. A public investment of this magnitude in clean energy in the U.S. is expected to attract hundreds of billions of dollars in private sector clean energy investments. Moreover, the IRA is expected to serve as a catalyst for pushing other countries towards cleaner fuels, so it is very likely to have a positive global impact. 

Since everyday decisions made by individuals are responsible for a large portion of all GHG emissions in the U.S. (5), each one of us can help climate crisis by taking advantage of the subsidies provided by the IRA. 

In short, the IRA empowers individuals to act, and it cannot fully succeed without all of us participating. Until the passage of the IRA, I remember feeling hopeless in making any real difference in the global climate crisis. Beyond recycling, composting, or driving a hybrid car, which are all valuable, there was not much else an individual could do. But a public investment of this magnitude now enables us to take actions that will have a much bigger impact on a global scale. 

There’s something for everyone in the IRA, and it includes homeowners, renters, and those living in condominiums and multi-family buildings. The IRA also supports community solar projects, i.e., in a field, farm, or a garage, which households could access. Taking the time to educate ourselves is the key.

Here are a few resources for finding information on rebates, tax credits, finding contractors, and how to get started on electrifying your home and car: 

rewiringamerica.org  •  homes.rewiringamerica.org  •  CleanEnergy.gov


>  Final word

A few weeks ago, in this blog, on World Environment Day, I wrote about international efforts to mitigate climate change, and those are agreements and treaties that most countries have signed on to. Whether these agreements will be honored by different countries and to what extent remains to be seen. This blog entry is about “real” action by the U.S., the first of its kind. 

The overarching goal of the IRA and the BIL is to achieve a clean electric grid (powered by renewable energy sources without generating greenhouse gasses) together with electrified buildings, vehicles, and industry. This will be revolutionary, and our children and grandchildren will have a chance at a sustainable future. Therefore, despite all the calamities and heartbreaks we have endured in recent years, the latest being the wildfires and tragic loss of life in Maui, and despite all efforts on the contrary by conservative politicians, I am still hanging on to hope that there are parallel, even more powerful, undercurrents of progress and that there might yet be hope for life on this planet.


> Sources

  1. The IRA Guidebook White House
  2. The Paris Accord
  3. The Inflation Reduction Act: What’s in it
  4. New EPA rule
  5. Fast Facts EPA
  6. IRA and the role of the states
  7. IRAs first birthday
  8. One year of Clean Energy Boom
  9. The Historic Climate Bill

• • •

JOURNEY WITH US: The Climate Action Team is for you. Yes, you. Because you want to act on your love for the planet and because you need caring companions as you navigate these changing times. Learn all about the group here, and check out our lending library and Carbon Offset Fund. You can also request to join the Climate Action Team on Realm. Contact Jon Reese to connect to the CAT and join us for our next meeting in person on Saturday, Sept. 23, at 1:30 PM in the church sanctuary.

How one “Day” spurred a deeper dive

How one “Day” spurred a deeper dive

Editor’s note:This blog post by CAT member Dr. Parjit Kaur is longer than what we usually publish. Please don’t let this deter you from wading in and appreciating the work she has done to provide a valuable summary of global efforts to address the climate crisis. 

• • •

June 5 is celebrated as World Environment Day by millions of people across the world. Launched by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) in 1973, June 5, 2023, marks its 50th anniversary. Unfortunately, unabated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, biodiversity loss, and plastic pollution continue.

According to the PBS NewsHour on June 5, 2023, scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found the highest ever levels of GHGs in our atmosphere this spring, the highest in the last 4 million years. This is the result of burning fossil fuels, including oil, coal, and gas. Increased GHGs in our atmosphere retain extra heat reflected from the earth’s surface, resulting in global warming. The current increase of 1.1°C in the temperature of the earth’s surface, compared to the preindustrial levels, is already exhibiting itself in the form of droughts, intense heat waves, wildfires, hurricanes, flooding, and rising sea levels.

Continuing use of fossil fuels is therefore causing dangerous interference with the earth’s natural climate. Parts of the world are already uninhabitable and unsuitable for agriculture, resulting in large scale human migrations. According to a recent New York Times report, some areas of the United States – including Florida, California, and Kentucky – are also becoming uninsurable as the intensity of climate-related events is increasing. Scientists serving on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change tell us that we have less than a decade now to rein in global warming and limit the irrevocable damage to our climate that we and nature might still be able to adapt to.

In the last few years, historic treaties or resolutions have been reached among nations to combat these climate-related issues; therefore, I decided to celebrate World Environment Day (or week or the month) by trying to understand these treaties and resolutions for my own sake and to share this information with the readers of this blog. The most familiar or talked about of these treaties is the Paris agreement (COP 21, Dec. 2015), but equally historic, though less well known, are the Montreal treaty for prevention of biodiversity loss reached in Dec. 2022 (CBD COP15) and a UN resolution endorsed by 175 Member States in March 2022 to come up with a legally binding global agreement by the end of 2024 to end plastic pollution. 

What are these various agreements/resolutions in a nutshell? And why are all three important and connected? But first a few acronyms and some background…


UNFCCC: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, simply known as the Convention.

COP 21: 21st Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC in Dec. 2015

CBD: Convention on Biological Diversity

COP15: 15th Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC in DecE 2022

CBD COP15: 15th Convention on Biological Diversity/15th Conference of the Parties

GBF: The Global Biodiversity Framework, a plan adopted by CBD COP15

Background: It all started with the formation of the UNFCCC on March 21, 1994, when 197 countries ratified the Convention with the aim of preventing dangerous human interference with the Earth’s climate system. This was the first recognition of the climate problem by all nations of the world.

The Kyoto protocol, adopted in 1997 at COP3, operationalized the Convention and put the onus for combating climate change on developed or industrialized nations. Thirty-seven nations in total had binding targets, which were based on the recognition that most of the greenhouse gases (GHG) added to the earth’s atmosphere in the last 150 years came from activities of the industrialized nations. Kyoto came into force in 2005 with the first commitment period of 2008-2012 and the goal to reduce emissions to 5% below 1990 levels. Some nations succeeded in doing so, but the US and many other countries never ratified the Kyoto protocol.

Under the Doha Amendment to Kyoto, the same 37 nations further committed to reduce emissions by 18% below 1990 levels in the second period (initially slated to be 2013-2020). However, Doha came into force in early 2021, as it needed to be ratified by 144 Parties to Kyoto to come into effect, which was only received in Oct. 2020. Though the Kyoto protocol resulted in limited success – and there has been an increase in emissions since 1997 – Kyoto was significant as a symbol and a first step to combat global warming.

Paris Climate Agreement: In Dec. 2015, at COP 21, 197 Parties of the UNFCCC reached a landmark agreement, now known as the Paris Agreement (1), to aggressively combat climate change by accelerating the actions and investments needed for a low carbon future. This is the first time that all nations committed to an ambitious effort to combat climate change and to adapt to its effects.

A special provision was made to provide financial assistance to developing countries to help them achieve their targets. It entered into force on Nov. 4, 2016, when 55 countries accounting for at least 55% of global emissions, referred to as the “double threshold,” had signed the agreement. Most of the nation states or parties have already ratified the agreement. Unfortunately, the US withdrew from the Paris Agreement in 2019. The current US administration rejoined the Paris accord in 2021. 

What are the goals of the Paris Agreement?

  1. A global response to keep the temperature rise well below 2°C above the preindustrial levels (1700s) by the end of this century, but preferably to below 1.5°C, by reducing GHG emissions.
  2. Increase the ability of developing countries to deal with climate change mitigation and adaptation, achieved by mobilization and provision of finances, a new technology framework, and enhanced capacity-building. 
  3. All Parties will put forward their best efforts (Nationally determined contributions) and will strengthen these efforts in years ahead. 

What needs to happen?

To achieve the goals of the Paris agreement, global emissions need to be reduced by 43% by 2030 from 2010 levels and to net-zero by 2050. Net-zero implies the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere will be the same as is absorbed by forests or oceans or by sequestration. To date, over 90 countries have made commitments to reach net-zero targets. These include the world’s largest emitters: China, the United States, and India. The Paris Agreement works on a 5-year cycle of increasingly ambitious climate action carried out by countries. It is worth mentioning that half of global GHG emissions come from the top seven emitters: China, The United States, India, the European Union, Indonesia, Russia, Brazil. 

Are we on track to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement? No. Unfortunately, 75% of the pledges or the short-term actions taken by individual countries are too low and will in fact result in increased emissions by 2030. The United Nations Emissions Gap Report 2022 (EGR, the 13th in an annual series) provides an overview of the gap between where the GHG emissions are predicted to be and where they need to be in 2030 to avert the worst climate impacts (2). According to this report, there is currently no credible pathway to confine temperature change to 1.5°C or even 2°C.

If the present trajectory continues, we are on a path to a 2.8°C increase in temperature by the end of the century.  According to the EGR, only an urgent system-wide transformation can put us back on track. For example, 98-100% of electricity should come from zero-carbon sources by 2050. Furthermore, improving the efficiency of food production, reducing food waste, changing dietary choices, reducing emissions from transportation, halting deforestation, and increasing tree cover are all necessary to reduce overall emissions (3). Fortunately, most of the technologies (such as solar and wind) needed to reach net-zero are already available and quickly becoming cost-competitive with fossil fuels. Carbon removal techniques need to be improved and are also necessary to reach the 1.5°C goal. 

Why is 2030 a crucial target date? 

To limit warming to 1.5°C, GHG gases must peak before 2025 and decline 43% by 2030.  Crossing this threshold will unleash far more severe climate impacts. Countries need to take huge steps to reach net-zero by 2050, which includes shutting down 2400 coal plants and replacing them with renewables by 2030. Right now, 250 new coal plants are currently under construction around the world. 

The Montreal Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP15): The Convention on Biological Diversity is another type of COP that focuses on the conservation of biodiversity and nature. Climate change and biodiversity loss go together, and therefore the Montreal treaty or CBD COP15 is considered the Paris agreement for Biodiversity. Their missions are complementary to each other, and both are essential to halt or reverse effects of climate change. CBD COP15 was unanimously ratified by 196 countries in Dec. 2022, excluding the United States, even though the US championed the idea of such a treaty and helped craft it in the 1990s (4). 

Why is it important to preserve biodiversity? Everything in nature is interconnected, and we cannot expect life to continue if links in this chain are broken or removed. Biodiversity is what gives resilience to the ecosystems, and ecosystems are what sustain all life on this planet, including humans.

Biodiversity is “the very stuff of life,” according to the famous Pulitzer Prize winning biologist E.O. Wilson, and there can be no life without nature and biodiversity. In his book, ‘Half-Earth’, E.O. Wilson, while making a case for devoting fully half of the Earth’s surface for nature reserves, writes: “as the minds and stewards of the living earth, humans have a responsibility to do no further harm to the biosphere.” Christiana Figueres, the architect of the Paris Climate Agreement, states that “If we keep abusing nature, it will collapse, taking us with it.” 

Currently, one in eight species of plants and animals is under threat of extinction. Similarly, tropical rainforests, coral reefs, and marine fish are all disappearing quickly (5). The five major drivers of biodiversity loss include: conversion of natural habitats into land for agriculture or industrial use (e.g., deforestation), exploitation of natural resources (e.g., overfishing or overhunting), climate change (global warming due to GHG emissions), pollution (particulate matter in the air and plastic pollution on land and in sea), and invasive species.

What are the goals of CBD COP15? 

The Global Biodiversity Framework adopted by the CBD includes the following goals:

• The “30×30” target of the GBF calls for the conservation of the 30% of Earth’s land and sea by 2030 through the establishment of “protected areas and other area-based conservation measures.” It is the equivalent of the goal of the Paris Agreement to keep the temperature rise below 1.5°C. Although the United States is not officially a signatory to this treaty, the US Interior Department launched a campaign in 2021 to conserve 30% of US land and water by 2030.

• A second “30×30” target includes an agreement by developed countries to mobilize $30 billion for developing countries by 2030. These and other resources from public, private, and philanthropic investments will be used to equip developing countries and small island nations with the funding needed to achieve the targets of GBF.

• Protect Indigenous peoples’ rights: The CBD places greater attention on the rights of Indigenous peoples and their critical role as custodians of nature than other environmental agreements. Lands under the care of indigenous peoples contain 80% of the world’s remaining biodiversity, yet a disrespect for their rights, responsibilities, and knowledge too often leads to adverse outcomes for nature (6).

• Reinforcing the Climate-Nature connection: Climate and nature are deeply interconnected. Climate change is a primary driver of biodiversity loss, and biodiversity is the most effective tool against climate change. Therefore, there is a need to implement nature-based solutions to combat climate change. Such solutions work with nature rather than against it. Some examples include planting trees on a slope to prevent soil erosion, restoring wetlands and peatlands to prevent flooding and allow carbon sequestration, and protecting and restoring mangroves to prevent erosion of coastal areas.

• Reform of environmentally harmful subsidies: The world spends at least $1.8 trillion dollars a year (2% of global GDP) on subsidies that are accelerating the destruction of our natural world. Their intent may often be good (to improve economic access or improve food security, etc.), but many subsidies encourage unsustainable production or carbon-intensive consumption (e.g., subsidies to the fossil fuel, agriculture, or forestry industry), thus harming nature through depletion of natural resources and degradation of global ecosystems (7) The GBF calls on governments to eliminate, or phase-out, or reform harmful subsidies by at least $500 billion per year by 2030, while scaling up positive incentives for biodiversity conservation and sustainable production.

UN Resolution to end plastic pollution: (March 2022, 8) Plastic is predominantly made from oil and gas, both fossil fuels. More than 400 million tons of plastic is produced every year, and of that, only 10% is recycled. The more plastic we produce, the more we intensify the GHG emissions and climate crisis. Moreover, discarded plastic pollutes every ecosystem from mountain tops to the ocean floor. About 11 million tons of plastic end up in oceans every year, affecting marine species through ingestion or other dangers. Humans are not exempt from plastic pollution. It is estimated that we consume greater than 50,000 plastic particles per year with untold effects on our health. This is where the global UN agreement to combat plastic pollution comes in. In March 2022, 175 member states endorsed a resolution to end plastic pollution and come up with a legally binding agreement by the end of 2024.

UNEP’s recent “Turning off the Tap” report proposes ways to end plastic pollution and create a circular economy (9). It combines reducing unnecessary plastic use with reuse, recycle, and reorient towards using sustainable plastic alternatives. According to the report, these solutions are available now, and a systems-level change plus new regulatory mechanisms will ensure that we can reap economic benefits from this change and reduce damage to the environment and human health.  

So, what does it all mean? It means that despite a world-wide awareness of the deteriorating state of our environment since 1973 and a recognition of the climate change and loss of biodiversity, the window is fast closing for nations and individuals to realize the urgency of the climate crisis and implement the objectives laid out in these agreements before it is too late for us and nature


The Paris Agreement 

• The Emissions Gap Report

• The What, When, and How of Net-zero emissions

• Why the US won’t join this key treaty to save nature

• The Global Biodiversity Framework

• Report calls for Indigenous peoples’ knowledge to be included in climate policy

• The B Team. Study: Governments are subsidizing the destruction of Nature

• Resolution to end plastic pollution

• Turning off the Tap: How the world can end plastic pollution and create a circular economy

• • •

JOURNEY WITH US: The Climate Action Team extends a radical welcome to activists, contemplatives, readers, meditators, questioners, tree hugging hippies, scientists, policy wonks, radicals, pacifists, nature enthusiasts, and all who seek community as we navigate our changing times together. Learn all about the group here, and check out our lending library and Carbon Offset Fund grant opportunity. Contact Jon Reese to connect to the CAT and join us for our special in-person potluck in the social hall on Monday, June 19.



The Okefenokee needs protecting, not mining

The Okefenokee needs protecting, not mining

The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, located in Southern Georgia, is the largest blackwater swamp in North America and one of the last unspoiled wildlife refuges remaining in the U.S. and the world. The Okefenokee is considered one of the seven natural wonders of Georgia, and it is home to rare plant and animal species. The name “Okefenokee” comes from the Native American language meaning “Trembling Earth.” It was designated a wetland of international importance by the United Nations in 1971 and is one of the largest freshwater swamps in the world.

Wetlands are critical in many ways: for maintaining clean water supplies, protecting against flooding and droughts, and providing protection against climate change. They act as dense carbon sinks, and along with rain forests and coral reefs, wetlands are among the most productive ecosystems in the world. They support a very large amount of biodiversity, including microorganisms, fish, birds, reptiles, amphibians, plants, and mammals, all of which play a crucial role in maintaining the global cycles of water, sulfur, and nitrogen on the planet. 

Today, the future of the Okefenokee swamp is threatened. The Alabama-based Twin Pines Minerals Company has this swamp in its sights. Its proposed titanium and other heavy minerals mining project near the swamp in the critical Trail Ridge area is dangerous for the health of this fragile ecosystem and is expected to negatively impact tourism and tourism-associated jobs in this area. Trail Ridge is an ancient sand dune, and the swamp itself used to form the ocean floor, which is now covered with thick peat.

Why does Twin Pines Minerals Company feel entitled to mine in this area? While the Okefenokee Wildlife Refuge itself is protected under federal law, hundreds of thousands of acres of wetlands surrounding the swamp that play a critical role in sustaining the swamp are not. Moreover, under the Trump-era Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR), the Clean Water Act protections were withdrawn in 2020 from a significant portion of the wetlands around the Okefenokee and millions of acres of pristine wetlands in the nation. Interestingly, provisions of the Clean Water Act of 1972 have historically always been subject to interpretation. Its original mandate to protect the “waters of the United States” was codified without specifying which waters should be protected. Therefore, every administration views the role and importance of the wetlands differently. Most previous U.S. administrations, especially Barack Obama’s Clean Water Rule (CWR), have looked at all wetlands and streams as being critical for climate resilience and the health of the nation’s water supply. NWPR, however, watered down the protection provided by CWR. 

With the change in administration in 2021, large areas of the wetlands around Okefenokee were once again added back to the jurisdiction of the Army Corps of Engineers; however, following litigation by Twin Pines, the Army Corps renounced control in August 2022 and let the decision-making process fall to the State of Georgia. Amidst this murkiness regarding who has what authority, and in the absence of federal oversight, Twin Pines is applying for mining permits directly from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) this Fall. 

Now it’s up to the state of Georgia to regulate its wetland resources. Although there’s bipartisan support for protecting Okefenokee, Georgia is not well equipped for such a task and currently there is no permanent protection for the wetlands surrounding this swamp. The bipartisan House Bill 1289 filed in February 2022 aims to provide these permanent protections – if it is adopted by the Georgia legislature in a timely manner. 

The mining proposal by Twin Pines is not the first of its kind. Decades ago, Dupont proposed a much larger titanium mining project in these wetlands, which was scrapped due to strong public opposition. House Bill 1289 would not only prevent Georgia EPD from issuing any mining permits near the Okefenokee, but it will also prohibit companies from floating bonds to cover costs of damage associated with mining. That would amount to déjà vu all over again and reminiscent of what was allowed to happen to the Everglades in Florida followed by the most expensive repair efforts in history!

Twin Pine’s original mining proposal in 2019 included digging in the 8000-acre area in these wetlands; however, possibly due to significant public opposition, they are downsizing their permit to the 582-acre Trail Ridge area. This will act like a “demonstration” mining project, but the major concern of the environmentalists is that the company, in future phases, will eventually seek permits for mining in larger and larger areas in these wetlands. 

The proposed mining activities will be carried out 50 feet below ground, which is below the level of the swamp. These activities are likely to lower water levels in the swamp and make this natural resource vulnerable to droughts in the future, according to Dr. Rhett Jackson of the University of Georgia. This can have far-reaching effects on the wildlife and on the Suwannee and St. Mary’s rivers, whose headwaters originate in this swamp. These rivers are also likely to be impacted by toxic discharge from mining. 

At a different level, the noise and light pollution resulting from 24-hour mining activities will have immeasurable impact on the natural wildlife habitat. Consequently, it will also destroy the quality of the visitor experience for those seeking solace, tranquility, birding, and other activities only possible in a place of unspoiled pristine nature. It is estimated that more than 600,000 domestic and international visitors enjoy the quiet beauty and wildlife of the Okefenokee swamp annually. 

Why mine for titanium? Titanium dioxide is used as pigment in white paints, plastics, and jewelry as well as in sophisticated equipment and aircrafts. No doubt, mining titanium is needed in some capacity for further economic development, but at what cost to our natural environment? Georgia Republican Representative Darlene Taylor has sagely stated that although titanium and economic development are important, “there’s only one Okefenokee.” She also recommends that people who are concerned about the Okefenokee should submit comments to the Georgia EPD. According to her, “When they hear from the public, it does make a difference to them. They need to know and recognize this is an important place.” 

We as citizens need to consider this trade-off seriously. How much more and where should we keep producing these minerals? What is the long-term calculus of the impact of such activities on us and future generations? Can we, and will we, ever stop long enough to consider the damaging impact of our activities on our own rivers, our water supply systems, and our health? How long will we continue to poison the water and air we depend on for our very lives? 

“Risking one of Georgia’s natural wonders for minerals that can be obtained elsewhere simply isn’t worth it,” according to former Georgia Representative Bill Stuckey.

Members of the Okefenokee Protection Alliance, a coalition of 40 environmental groups, are urging Georgians and other concerned citizens to tell Georgia EPD officials to reject the mining project that threatens this precious wildlife habitat. 

Georgia EPD will open a 60-day public comment period before making its decision this fall. If you are concerned about the future of “One Okefenokee,” now is the time to send comments to Georgia EPD and to your state representatives. Send comments to TwinPines.Comment@dnr.ga.gov. Text SWAMP to 52886 to send a letter to state legislators.

To learn more about the Okefenokee Swamp and the proposed titanium mining project, click on these links: Okefenokee fans rally support • Okefenokee Protection Alliance • Why Okefenokee is worth saving • Trump waters down Wetlands protections

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JOIN US! The Climate Action Team meets next THIS MONDAY. Nov. 21, at 7:30 PM, and we invite you to join us on Zoom. Contact Jon Reese at reeseindecatur@gmail.com for the link. View our agenda and previous meeting minutes here.

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