In 2020's Final Twist, Trump Gives $35B to Climate in Second COVID-19 Relief Bill

Sophie Hirsh - Author

Dec. 29 2020, Published 12:04 p.m. ET

donald trump omnibus coronavirus climate
Source: Getty Images

Lawmakers, health experts, and scientists from around the world have pushed for green recovery plans from the coronavirus pandemic — but considering President Donald Trump’s track record on climate issues, actually achieving one in the U.S. has seemed unlikely. But in 2020’s final twist, Trump actually signed the second COVID-19 relief bill. Of the $2.3 trillion package, $35 billion is going toward climate investments, including renewable energy sources.

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Of course, this is no definitive green recovery plan by any means, as that would only ever exist in our wildest dreams — but the plan does include a few surprisingly significant climate benefits. Keep reading to find out all about the 2020 omnibus spending bill and its environmental policies.

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Source: Getty Images
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Trump surprised the masses when he signed the second coronavirus relief bill.

On Sunday, Dec. 27, Trump signed the second major pandemic relief bill — which came as a shock to many, seeing as Trump repeatedly called the bill a “disgrace” and threatened to veto it on numerous occasions, as per The New York Times

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Interestingly, some of the policies Trump’s signature approved were Obama-era policies that Trump rolled back earlier in his administration — for example, regulations surrounding hydrofluorocarbons — leaving many puzzled as to why he suddenly signed this bill at the last minute.

According to NBC News, Trump may have changed his mind for two reasons (and they both have to do with money): to reinstate about-to-expire unemployment payments, and to avoid a government shutdown, which would have kicked off this week. A government shutdown isn’t really how you want your time in government to end, is it?

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The 2020 omnibus spending bill benefits the climate in a few ways.

The omnibus spending bill, aka the omnibus appropriations bill, is a section of the second coronavirus relief package. The omnibus spending bill includes a significant section of climate legislation that Dan Lashof, director of the World Resources Institute, called “the most significant piece of climate and energy legislation enacted by Congress in at least a decade,” as per NBC News. High praise!

As reported by Intelligencer, the bill allocates $35 billion to the climate. The funds, to be distrubed over the next five years, will finance a few things: investments and research in zero-emission energy technology, such as solar, nuclear, wind, and carbon-capture storage; a tax credit extension for solar and wind energy; and the phaseout of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in the U.S. 

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HFCS are industrial chemicals, commonly used to lower temps in refrigerators and air conditioners — but ironically, HFCs are also strong greenhouse gases that contribute to global heating and the climate crisis. The Trump administration previously rolled back an Obama-era HFC phaseout proposal — but with the signing of this bill, Trump is essentially returning to that phaseout plan, Intelligencer pointed out. 

And this happened just in time for President-elect Joe Biden to take over as POTUS, meaning he’ll have a delayed say in launching out the HFC phaseout that he and Obama’s administration once worked on.

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Not only will the omnibus spending bill’s investments in renewable energy benefit the environment, but also the economy, those in need of jobs, and public health — hence why a green recovery plan from the pandemic is so important. That said, these investments are really not enough to help the U.S. achieve net zero emissions and a clean clean energy economy in the next 30 years

To get there, we need to do so much more — namely, keep the fossil fuels in the ground — and with Biden’s inauguration just a few weeks away, we’re all counting on his promise to rejoin the Paris Agreement on his first day in office.

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