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Biden marks Earth Day with $7bn ‘solar for all’ investment amid week of climate action
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Biden marks Earth Day with $7bn ‘solar for all’ investment amid week of climate action

Joe Biden will mark Monday’s Earth Day by announcing a $7bn investment in solar energy projects nationwide, focusing on disadvantaged communities, and unveiling a week-long series of what the White House say will be “historic climate actions”.

The president is traveling to Virginia’s Prince William Forest Park to deliver a speech touting his environmental record, including measures to tackle the climate crisis and increase access to, and lower costs of, clean energy.

Today’s centerpiece is the announcement of $7bn in grants through the Environmental Protection Agency’s “solar for all” program, funded by last year’s $369bn bipartisan Inflation Reduction Act, which the Biden administration says benefits more than 900,000 households.

The money will be targeted at low-income and disadvantaged areas, government officials say, and distributed through “states, territories, tribes, municipalities and non-profits across the country”.

Solar projects funded by the program will also create 200,000 jobs, the administration says, and advance Biden’s Justice40 initiative, in which at least 40% of the benefits of investments in federal climate clean energy, and affordable and sustainable housing projects, are directed to communities “marginalized by underinvestment and overburdened by pollution”.

“One of the most innovative provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act was the creation of the greenhouse gas reduction fund, which was designed to mobilize private capital to address the climate crisis, ensure our country’s economic competitiveness, and deliver lower energy costs and economic revitalization to communities that have historically been left behind,” Janet McCabe, deputy administrator of the EPA, said in a press call ahead of Biden’s announcement on Monday at the national park in Triangle, Virginia.

“EPA has chosen 60 applicants to receive $7bn in grant awards. It will invest in overburdened communities that the private market finds particularly challenging to serve [and] focus on low-income communities, communities around historically Black colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, and tribal colleges and universities.

“This historic investment will generate more than $8bn in savings on electric bills for the overburdened households over the entire life of the program.”

Biden will also announce a new website to encourage citizens to join the American Climate Corps, a volunteer government organization modeled on former president Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s much-vaunted Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s.

The site, climatecorps.gov, aims to fill about 20,000 positions across 36 states, Washington DC and Puerto Rico, hosted by organizations working on clean energy, conservation and climate resilience projects.

Aimed mainly at young people, the administration said in a press release that the objective is “to make it easy for any American to find work tackling the climate crisis while gaining the skills necessary for the clean energy and climate resilience workforce of the future”.

Today’s announcements follow climate measures advanced by Biden officials last week, which included restricting oil and gas leases on 13m acres in Alaska, and finalizing a federal land management rule that makes conservation an equal priority to “harmful” private industry activities such as oil drilling at government-owned assets.

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Biden has been trying to shore up his support among younger, climate-savvy voters who have been disappointed with the administration’s approval last year of oil and gas developments including the massive Willow project in Alaska. Advocates have also been putting pressure on Biden to declare a climate emergency.

The president’s Virginia trip is also the first of a packed Earth Week itinerary of visits nationwide by administration officials, including the transportation secretary, Pete Buttigieg, and the energy secretary, Jennifer Granholm, that officials insist will “build a stronger, healthier future for all”.

According to the White House, Tuesday’s theme will be clean water for all communities; Wednesday will focus on accelerating the US’s clean transportation future; Thursday will focus on steps to cut pollution from the power sector and strengthen the US electricity grid; and Friday will see measures to promote cleaner air and healthier schools.

“When President Biden took office, he promised to create an economy and build a future that benefits all Americans,” McCabe said.

“He and the vice-president have been relentless in their pursuit of historic legislation to help clean up our air and water, strengthen our economy, create good-paying American jobs and deliver life-changing investments to communities across the country.”

Source: theguardian.com