If the 1980s – 2000s were defined by climate scientists ringing the alarm bells about human-caused climate change, and the 2010s were defined by governments uniting to take action, then the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) marks the start of a multi-decadal period for the scalable deployment of existing climate solutions by emerging private sector leaders, entrepreneurs, and innovators.
The IRA will energize investments in climate-forward infrastructure and encourage the next generation of climate solutions needed to reduce our domestic emissions to net zero by mid-century. Paired with the 2021 bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act–which provides billions of dollars to update the grid and build efficient roads and bridges – the IRA will move the nation closer to the Biden Administration’s 2030 goal of a 50% reduction in emissions from 2005 levels. The Rhodium Group estimates that this law will get the United States to a 40% reduction in emissions.
At the Aspen Institute, we’re partnering with several organizations, multinational companies, and advocates to move the needle on climate-forward solutions that contribute to this emissions goal and drive ambition and demand for unexplored sources for climate action. This is how we’re doing it:
Ensuring an Innovative and Just Energy Transition
The IRA’s historically significant $369 billion climate investment includes $70 billion for a clean energy transition, which will no doubt spur an energy race to rival any in modern history. Now more than ever, a future with decreased reliance on fossil fuels is possible sooner rather than later with the development and implementation of underresearched and underfunded solutions that are just now coming to the forefront. New hubs for climate innovation will emerge all over the United States, increasing market competition and faster adoption of alternative energy fuels and technologies. In this regard, Aspen’s Cargo Owners for Zero Emission Vessels (coZEV), is building a network of multinational companies to raise ambition in the maritime industry to decarbonize and establish a future for zero-carbon vessels. Through coZEV, companies like Amazon, IKEA, and Unilever are coming together to call for higher ambition across the shipping value chain, take concrete collective action on decarbonization-related activities and projects, and maximize their positive impact.
The IRA will also encourage deeper, more robust conversations about the U.S.’s energy future ranging from the climate and environmental justice implications of a clean energy transition to the viability and scalability of innovative climate solutions. We’re proud of the Institute’s leadership’s success in advancing these conversations and solutions, and we know there is much more to be done. For instance, there is a growing bipartisan consensus that permitting reform needs to pass if we are going to be able to build the clean energy infrastructure we need at the speed necessary to meet the urgency of climate change. And additionally, entire sectors of the American economy still need foundational policies – such as marine shipping, airplanes, and the education sector – to actualize future innovations.
Educating the Next Generation of Climate Leaders
The innovative climate solutions that are poised for development now that the IRA has become law will need bold leaders and entrepreneurs at the helm. That increased need can – and should – be met by the education sector. Through the Aspen Institute’s K12 Climate Action and Early Years Task Force, we are unlocking the power of one of the largest public sectors in the U.S. to impact the environment in a positive way. Over the last year, we brought young people, parents, educators, advocates, and more together to create the K12 Climate Action Plan.
Spearheaded by the K12 Climate Action Commission, the action plan focuses on advancing equity and describes opportunities to reduce the environmental footprint of the sector, adapt and build resilience to climate impacts, and support teaching and learning on climate change, solutions, and sustainability.
Most recently, we announced a new partnership with Capita to form the Early Years Climate Action Task Force. The Task Force will draft the first-ever Early Years Climate Action Plan for the U.S. Its recommendations will explore how the country can support young children, ages 0 to 8, to flourish despite climate change’s impacts. The Task Force will hold a series of listening sessions that highlights the particular vulnerabilities of young children to climate change and opportunities for the early years sector to take action while uplifting the experiences of Indigenous and Native communities, people of color, those on low incomes, and those living in particularly climate-vulnerable communities.
All of the recommendations we collaboratively create can be adopted and turned into local, state, and federal policy around the country. The IRA incentivizes the sector to educate millions of students and prepare them to confront the climate challenges of the future. The potential impact of this will be felt for generations.
Encouraging Public and Global Participation in Climate Action
Another partnership we’ve formed is between the Aspen Institute and the city of Miami Beach, which created our most extensive effort for public participation on climate and environment – Aspen Ideas: Climate. The inaugural event held in Miami Beach in May 2022 convened leaders to discuss how to mitigate the effects of climate change and how to adapt as a society to ensure our ability to thrive on this planet. With more than 1,800 people in attendance, the event created an opportunity to hear from influential voices like Andrew Doerr, Xiye Bastida, Al Roker, and John Doerr, as well as experts like Catherine Coleman Flowers, Daniela Fernandez, Esethu Cenga, and Donnel Baird, all of whom are creating and building climate solutions every day. Now, with the passage of the IRA, the solutions showcased on our stages are set to become a reality much more quickly.
Bilateral and multilateral diplomacy to work with other high-emitting countries like China and India is critical to solving this global crisis. The Institute’s role as a key advisor in the Los Angeles-Shanghai Green Corridor Partnership and our facilitation of the India-U.S. Track II Dialogue on clean energy and climate change encourages inclusive, proactive, and non-partisan collaboration on climate action. No part of the climate crisis can be solved without a whole-of-society approach. Building collaborative partnerships and catalyzing change invite everyone to the table and creates new space for action. The IRA’s investments mean that we will now have increased ability to expand the number of leaders we can unite and the tables we can build.
And finally, to facilitate a deeper understanding of what the IRA is and what its implementation will entail, the Aspen Institute had the honor of hosting an in-person discussion with Gina McCarthy and Ali Zaidi, the leaders of the White House Domestic Climate Office. In conversation with TIME’s Justine Worland, they discussed the impacts of the bill and how it will contribute to the Biden-Harris Administration Domestic Climate plan. During the event David Hayes, Special Assistant to the President for Climate Policy, announced the new Climate Mapping for Resilience and Adaptation Portal, an online tool that integrates real-time information from across the federal government to help people better understand their local exposure to climate-related hazards. In this moment of transition, with a new future for the energy sector on the horizon (and one that not only considers climate and environmental justice but centers it as well) frank conversations like these will become more important to increase public understanding and participation in a critical aspect of the United States energy policy.
The implementation of the IRA signals the start of a new phase in the collective effort to stop climate change, one where we must all roll up our sleeves build and invest in our shared home – Earth.