For years, the world has wondered what it would look like if and when the US government took concrete action in response to climate change. Now we know – and it isn’t pretty. The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (IRA) is not truly a climate bill, and is certain to harm the very communities that most need action on climate. Statements are being issued about whether the good outweighs the bad in the IRA – mostly from party officials and organizations who are not going to experience the real harms in such a bargain. That entirely misses the point.
Fighting climate change is not a spectator sport. Grassroots organizations representing communities and Indigenous peoples bearing the brunt of climate and ecological disruption have worked tirelessly in favor of the policies and solutions that will ensure their survival and save humanity. And dirty energy industries, their financiers and investors, corporate media, and political opportunists have done everything possible to delude the public and corrupt our elected officials to prevent meaningful, much less transformative, action.
Our elected leaders in Congress and the White House have had a choice to make: “Which side are they on?” With the IRA, they have chosen the wrong side.
In the 20th-century novel about Black life in the US, Invisible Man, the narrator recounts his experience working in a factory making lead paint for government buildings, and being trained to add a small amount of black dye to make the white paint look even more brilliantly white. As in that “Optic White” lead paint, there are individually good measures in the Inflation Reduction Act for which Black-, Indigenous-, and People of Color-led organizations have fought, for years. But despite the glossy veneer, it is still filled with lead paint that will keep on poisoning and killing people. The IRA’s incentives for corrupt, polluting industries will poison US climate policy as a whole, despite what individually good measures might also be included in the IRA.
The IRA will prop up the dirty energy status quo with hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies, financing, and devil’s bargains – the sum total of which will bolster the economic and political might of fossil fuel and nuclear corporations to continue, and even expand, their destructive and polluting extractive businesses.
In full recognition of that, NIRS joins the many frontline and BIPOC-led organizations that have pointed out they cannot support the bill. To respond effectively to the climate crisis, we must listen to the judgments of organizations that are the voices of the communities and peoples who are on the frontlines of climate disruption and environmental pollution. Those who stand the most to lose from an ongoing failure to act – and the most to gain from a just and equitable transition to sustainable, renewable energy – are the only ones in a moral position to say what compromises, if any, and to what degrees, would make for an “acceptable” climate policy.
We will not settle for a climate destroying bill in sheep’s clothing. We cannot settle for the inadequate, unjust, and wasteful policies in the Inflation Reduction Act. We cannot settle for a bill that backs false climate solutions and sacrifices frontline communities. We demand better from Congress: a strong national policy for climate, the economy, and for environmental justice. The compromise between climate action and climate destruction in the IRA is not one we can accept. NIRS urges Congress and the White House to listen to the concerns of frontline, environmental justice communities they were elected by to go back and develop a policy that truly addresses climate change and environmental injustice – including restoration and repair of the harms caused by fossil fuels and nuclear energy. We cannot and will not accept the IRA as the final word on climate policy. We refuse to accept that frontline communities must be sacrificed yet again for nuclear, fossil, and other dirty energy interests. We stand in solidarity with the frontline communities and we will not stop fighting for a just, equitable, and sustainable future.
Statements from environmental justice and climate justice groups
- Indigenous Environmental Network
- Climate Justice Alliance
- Grassroots Global Justice Alliance
- Movement for Black Lives
- Taproot Earth
- Friends of the Earth
- Food & Water Watch
Click here for NIRS’s analysis of the nuclear provisions in the IRA.