By: Jo Doumbia

The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) 

You may have heard that this past August completed a year since the enactment of the IRA, the most significant climate legislation ever to become law. In addition to benefiting people, it also protects nature. Not comprehensive, below, there is a list of key aspects covered by this law.

Renewable Energy to Reduce Carbon Pollution. By directing about $370 billion to speed up the transition to clean energy (two-thirds in tax credits for producing renewable electricity, investing in renewable technologies, and clean energy manufacturing), the IRA will cut annual U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by about 1 billion metric tons by 2030, or an estimate 42 percent carbon emissions reduction.

Innovation in Clean Energy and Transmission Distribution. Improving our transmission infrastructure is critical to deliver renewable energy to consumers and enable the transition to clean, carbon-free electricity. The IRA includes more than $70 billion for the Department of Energy to help expanding clean energy and transmission, update infrastructure, and ensure that new projects are designed preserving the environment.

Healthy Forests for Everyone. Red-tailed Hawks and other generalist species like Blue Jays significantly benefit from urban foresting projects. Green spaces in urban areas are also proven to improve both the mental and physical health of those living in surrounding neighborhoods. The IRA invests $1.5 billion in grants for urban and community forestry. There are also $2 billion for National Forest System lands, to support healthy forest management, making the forests more resilient to climate change stressors and providing important ecosystem services (i. e., water quality, flood control, and carbon storage). These projects will not only provide varied and valuable habitat in urban and rural areas but can help cities reduce energy needs. Healthy forest management is also key to improving habitat diversity.

Restoring and Conserving Forests. The IRA will invest more than $450 million to help private landowners manage forests and to provide incentives to help protect more forest ecosystems. Forests naturally store carbon dioxide in their trees, shrubs, and soils, and keep carbon pollution out of the atmosphere.

America’s Grassland Prairies. More than three-quarters of the priority grasslands in the United States are privately owned and less that 40 percent of the American historic grasslands remain. The IRA invests $20 billion in voluntary conservation programs on private lands — including grasslands — through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). This will help more producers implement climate and habitat-friendly practices on their farms/ranches beyond grasslands. An additional $1 billion in Conservation Technical Assistance, will help support the USDA programs proven to work for farmers, ranchers, and biodiversity while maki habitat improvements.

Protecting People and Wildlife. The IRA will invest $1 billion for the federal agencies to conduct robust National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) reviews for projects using federal funds or on federal lands. NEPA ensures that the government not only accounts for impacts through sound scientific study but also through public input. These reviews are critical, especially as we know energy and infrastructure projects have historically had a disproportionately negative effect on low-income and rural communities, as well as people of color. The IRA also includes $125 million for the implementation of endangered species recovery plans and for addressing climate change impacts on key habitats. Furthermore, it also provides $121 million toward rebuilding and restoring parts of the National Wildlife Refuge System and state wildlife areas.

Methane Pollution. Methane is one of the most dangerous greenhouse gases and is the second-biggest contributor to climate change, after carbon dioxide. Venting, or burning off, excess methane is particularly hazardous for both people and wildlife, and methane leakage is a common problem in fossil fuel production. Methane from the oil and gas supply chain is often co- emitted with harmful air pollutants. Reducing emissions from greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane will help alleviate some of the worst effects of climate change. The IRA includes funds for methane emissions monitoring and fixes and applies a fee on oil and gas operations of $900 in 2024 (up to $1,500 in 2026 and thereafter) per metric ton of methane emitted.

Drought Resilience in the West. The IRA includes $4 billion in drought resilience funding for the American West, where rivers like the Colorado River—which provides water for 40 million people and numerous animal species—are in crisis. Specifically, it allows for agricultural and municipal water users to voluntarily reduce water consumption (leaving more water in rivers), establish water conservation projects, and restore habitats impacted by drought.

Natural Infrastructure to Protect our Coasts. The IRA allocates $2.6 billion dollars to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for coastal protection and restoration. Through grants, contracts, and technical assistance, coastal states and Tribes will increase their resilience to climate change by restoring habitats like beach dunes and wetlands. These coastal ecosystems act as natural infrastructure, shielding nearby communities from storms and sea-level rise. It also gives NOAA $50 million dollars for National Marine Sanctuaries to preserve unique ocean areas, provide critical habitat for marine life, and boost local economies. Protecting and restoring coastal habitats both on land and in the ocean will also reduce carbon pollution in the atmosphere as wetland plants and coral reefs permanently store carbon pollution.