US Inflation Reduction Act is a flawed but vital step in the climate change fight
- The bill is a signal that even one of the world’s largest users of fossil fuels is willing to change tack to deal with the deadliest crisis in our history
- As the US and the likes of China and India throw their economic weight into the clean-energy revolution, their participation could spark a chain reaction
It will create a pathway to kick-start the clean energy transformation. Among other things, it will extend US$369 billion in subsidies and tax credits for renewable energy such as solar, wind and hydropower, as well as other eligible projects. This will help reduce overall carbon emissions and lower energy prices to build a more sustainable sector.
The US will not be able to eliminate its dependence on fossil fuels – a significant contributor to global emissions – without more radical changes. However, the act should translate into more sustainable long-term planning.
Ammonia, for example, is an important base material for the fertilisers that feed the world. Plastics, steel and cement are used to create everything from small-scale tools and machines to buildings and national infrastructure. Our modern economies and their parallel material flows are inextricably linked to fossil fuels.
All this shows the perennial divide between established and emerging economies, but it does not negate the significance of the Inflation Reduction Act. Support for the law signals that the US is finally taking its leadership role seriously in the battle against climate change.
America can now work towards environmental sustainability by investing in the industrial capacity to manufacture renewables at scale. As the US and the likes of China and India throw their economic weight into the clean-energy revolution, their participation will spark a chain reaction that could be a role model for other countries.
We cannot turn our polluted, fossil-fuelled planet into a climate haven overnight. Long-term policies needs time and patience to bed down into the popular consciousness.
On an individual level, supply-side policies should go hand in hand with efforts to encourage energy saving and public transport use. To win this arduous battle, every behavioural change matters.
The fight against climate change has gone down many paths. The Inflation Reduction Act is a salutary response to a crisis that requires a greater sense of urgency than before.
However, any optimism must be balanced by scientific facts founded in the way our lives are structured today. Modern civilisation will remain dependent on fossil fuels for the foreseeable future. No technology, apps or AI will change that.
The longevity of humankind rests on coordinated action by individuals, industries and nations. The passing of the Inflation Reduction Act is an important victory that could have big results in the long term.
More importantly, it shows us that even one of the largest users of fossil fuels is willing to change tack when confronted with the deadliest crisis in our history. Perhaps it is time for the rest of the world to take heed too.
Adam Au is the head of legal at a Hong Kong-based healthcare group