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Earth Day 2023: Time to Finish the Job

The first Earth Day was celebrated in the United States 53 years ago, in 1970, during a seminal moment in our country’s environmental history. In a relatively short span of time, Congress took action to establish bedrock environmental laws, including the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the National Environmental Protection Act. We still rely upon these laws today to help protect the health of people and the planet. 

While it took Congress 34 years after first being warned of the perils of global warming, the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) marks another important moment in our nation’s history to address urgent threats posed by our continued fossil fuel dependency. Now the equally challenging work begins as we ensure that new clean energy projects—such as renewable energy, transmission lines, and electric vehicle charging stations—are deployed at the speed, scale, and scope necessary to avert the worst impacts of climate change, and to alleviate the burden on communities that are most impacted by pollution from fossil fuels.

In his State of the Union speech, President Biden promised that “we will finish the job” when it comes to climate action. A recent analysis by grantee partner Rhodium Group shows that the United States’ carbon pollution reduction commitment under the Paris Agreement is within reach, primarily using existing authority under the Clean Air Act and hundreds of billions of dollars of government investments authorized by the IRA.

Over the next two years, the Foundation’s Climate and Clean Energy program will focus on the following priorities:

  • Adopting new climate policies to “close the gap” in the U.S. greenhouse gas emissions reduction target of 50-52 percent by 2030.
  • Accelerating the buildout of clean energy projects and infrastructure including transmission lines, wind and solar facilities, and electric vehicle charging stations.
  • Building stronger, more durable public support for climate action by ensuring as many people in the U.S. as possible experience the benefits of clean energy policies.
  • Alleviating the historic inequities in pollution and economic burdens by supporting equity-centered organizations and leaders—especially Black, Indigenous, and People of Color—to co-create equitable policies that benefit their communities.

We are inspired by the daily, sustained efforts of our grantee partners to advance clean and equitable policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, cut smog and soot pollutants, and transform energy sectors. Our grantees, such as Greenlining and Forth Mobility, have been partnering to ensure that the shift to renewable energy and electric vehicles benefits communities that have felt left behind, especially people of color.

But there is no time to waste: tens of millions of Americans still breathe unhealthy air and drink polluted water every day. We have less than a decade to slash U.S. carbon pollution by half to prevent a climate catastrophe. We must finish the job, now.

Climate and Clean Energy