The Inflation Reduction Act signed by President Biden in August is the single-largest investment the country has ever made to protect our environment, lower our greenhouse gas emissions, and tackle the climate crisis.
While much of this is accomplished by way of tax credits for businesses and homeowners, there is also good news for renters, as well as important measures for communities who have for too long paid the steepest price for poor environmental policies.
For starters, there are rebates covering 50 to 100 percent of the cost, depending on income, of replacing home appliances with new energy-efficient models. That’s up to $840 for a clothes dryer, electric stove, or oven. That’s $1,750 for a water heater. And that’s $8,000 for an air heat pump.
Renters are eligible for these rebates themselves, or they can ask their landlords to take advantage of the incentives.
In an apartment building where at least half of the tenants earn a low or moderate income, property owners are eligible for rebates to upgrade ventilation, insulation and electric wiring. And landlords who have at least four units in their building can take advantage of a tax deduction to help make the apartments more energy efficient, which will mean renters can save money on utility bills.
It will also mean cleaner air to breathe, both inside and outside. And it will reduce the number of children who develop respiratory diseases such as asthma.
A study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology found that “children living in a home with gas cooking have a 42 percent increased risk of having current asthma” and a 24 percent “increased risk of lifetime asthma.”
But it’s not just air pollution inside the home that harms New Yorkers. Communities on the frontline of the climate crisis — such as those in Harlem, East Harlem, Washington Heights, Inwood and the Northwest Bronx — face disproportionate pollution outside their homes from transportation exhaust.
There, too, the IRA provides much-needed relief by incentivizing the transition to zero-emission vehicles.
There’s a $40,000 tax credit for heavy-duty electric vehicles like school buses, a $7,500 tax credit for new electric cars, and $4,000 for used electric cars. That is in addition to the recently announced $18 million grant from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to purchase 51 electric school buses that will go to underserved and overburdened communities across New York City.
These efforts will help supercharge our zero-emission goals and complement the recent $116 million U.S. Department of Transportation Low-No Emission bus grant awarded to support the Metropolitan Transportation Authority transition its entire fleet of 5,800 buses to zero emission vehicles by 2040. Electric vehicles on the road instead of gas and diesel means cleaner air for our communities.
It is also critical that we acknowledge that, in New York City, there are an estimated 370 heat-related deaths each summer, and these disproportionately impact Black and Latino New Yorkers. The IRA will provide cover for these heat islands, as they are known, by pumping $1.5 billion into the U.S. Forest Service’s Urban and Community Forestry Program to help plant more trees in urban environments.
The Inflation Reduction Act has rightfully been praised as a historic step in the fight against climate change, and will infuse nearly $400 billion in federal funding to help our nation reach our climate goals by the end of this decade. Members of Congress and the Biden administration must commit to working with grassroots climate justice organizations to ensure that the law’s implementation delivers critical investments to communities of color and areas of low income, realizing the potential of the $60 billion intended for environmental justice communities.
The IRA is a victory that we can all be proud of, and it will hasten our transition to a clean-energy future and economy while lowering energy costs and cleaning our air. But it will do something else as well: It will ease the financial and health burden of New York City renters, while taking important steps to right the wrongs of decades of environmental injustice.
Adriano Espaillat is a congressmen representing New York’s 13th Congressional District, while Julie Tighe is president of the New York League of Conservation Voters. A version of this Point of View originally appeared in the New York Daily News.