Chances of US climate progress have improved slightly

The results of the second round of the Senate elections in Georgia give the Democratic Party control of both houses of Congress, easing the way for President-elect Joe Biden to make progress on his ambitious climate agenda, at least over the next two years.

The double wins of Democratic candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock – which seemed highly unlikely just a few weeks ago – put Vice President-elect Kamala Harris in a position to break votes in the now split 50-50 chamber. he will also raise Democrat Chuck Schumer as Senate Majority Leader and has given Democrats responsibility for legislative committees, including those that can advance climate policies like energy and natural resources and the environment and public works .

These changes will allow Biden to quickly advance his appointments to Cabinet and other politicians in charge of crucial departments such as the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency. That, in turn, could help the incoming administration more quickly restore crucial environmental regulations Trump challenged or rescinded, by issuing executive orders, ending court challenges, or taking other action.

The Democratic majority, however, is too small an advantage to easily overcome the 60 votes needed to end a Senate filibuster. This will almost certainly prevent even the most ambitious climate policies from moving forward, such as a major carbon tax, a federal cap-and-trade program, or an energy standard that mandates rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Greenhouse.

Still, it will become considerably simpler to put legislation to a vote than under Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who held a notoriously tight grip on his caucus and barred any measures that could grant Democrats victories. This could allow energy and climate bills to move forward where there is some level of bipartisan support, including those that provide funding or support for carbon capture and removal, nuclear power. next-generation, long-distance transportation and clean energy research and development.

In addition, the change of power increases the chances that additional economic stimulus or infrastructure bills will be passed, which may also include more funding for research and development efforts. Democrats could also reverse many of the current administration’s last-minute regulatory changes, some designed to block the progress of their successors, with a simple majority of votes under what’s known as the Congressional Review Act, such as the New York Times noted.

At the same time, there might be opportunities to temporarily enact certain climate policies as part of the so-called budget reconciliation process, in which the measures are also adopted with a majority of votes and with a time limit. strictly limited debate, says Josh Freed, climate and energy program manager. at Third Way, a center-left think tank in Washington, DC The catch is that it can essentially only change taxes and spending, and the two must generally balance out within a budget window of 10. years.

But one explaining Vox earlier noted that climate policies pushed through the reconciliation process could include a federal green bank that finances clean infrastructure projects but pays for itself through a temporary carbon tax. (Again, however, the slim Democratic victory would almost certainly not allow for a high victory.)

Finally, democratic control of Congress could make it much more likely that the Biden administration could coordinate rapid and meaningful progress on the pandemic and economic recession. This should help solve climate problems at least indirectly, as the nation absolutely must face its most pressing crises before it can truly direct its attention, resources and political will to the impending giant.

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