Washington is finally getting serious about the climate crisis.
The $379 billion Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), the biggest climate bill the U.S. has enacted, will give us a fighting chance to slash harmful pollution and secure a better future for our kids and future generations. But this isn’t just a climate win. It’s a climate jobs win. That’s what makes it such a big deal for Illinois.
The IRA is about to unleash a massive wave of clean energy development that will create millions of good union jobs. The IRA’s aggressive incentives are tied directly to labor standards.
That means a developer that builds a new utility-scale wind or solar farm will receive a 30% tax credit by paying workers the federal prevailing rate for wages and benefits, along with employing a certain number of apprentices, which will expand career pathways so people can enter union careers in the clean energy economy.
Developers will also be eligible for additional benefits if they build renewable projects in low-income or fossil fuel-dependent communities, or if they build with American-made materials, which will create jobs manufacturing solar panels, wind turbines and electric vehicles.
State and local governments, including school districts, will be eligible to receive these credits directly as cash through the IRA’s “direct pay” option, to upgrade every public school to be healthier and more climate resilient, with improved indoor air quality.
This provision is on top of Illinois’ own Climate and Equitable Jobs Act, which provides incentives for public schools to offset the costs of installing solar power and other energy efficient upgrades.
The importance of this climate jobs win can’t be understated. Right now, many workers in the renewable energy economy are in low-wage jobs without good benefits, retirement security or a collective voice. This new stimulus will tip the scales and help us tackle the climate crisis while beginning to reverse 40 years of wage stagnation and widening racial inequality.
What IRA and CEJA prove is that we don’t have to choose between creating good jobs and fighting climate change. We can do both.
Pat Devaney, secretary-treasurer, Illinois AFL-CIO; representative, Climate Jobs Illinois