President Biden’s Budget Proposal Includes Unprecedented Funding for All-of-Government Approach to Climate

On Friday, April 9, President Joe Biden released a $1.52 trillion fiscal year (FY) 2022 budget proposal. Referred to as the “skinny budget,” the document includes top-line figures and high-level summaries the White House will supplant with the full budget proposal later this spring. The release of the skinny budget starts the often-challenging process for Congress to pass an appropriations bill by the end of September, when the FY21 appropriations expire.

As expected, the proposal includes an unprecedented amount of funding to advance the President’s “whole-of-government” approach to addressing climate change and achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Notably, the word “climate” appears 146 times in the submission to Congress — more than “COVID,” “pandemic,” and “infrastructure” combined. Indeed, the President signed into law the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill last month and separately released a $2 trillion infrastructure proposal. The overall spending levels for climate, which cuts across nearly every federal agency, amounts to more than a $14 billion increase from FY21 spending levels.

The budget includes climate funding for agencies beyond such usual recipients as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Energy (DOE), and Interior to include the Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and Labor as well as the General Services Administration and Small Business Administration.

Among the climate funding requests, the budget calls for $10 billion across nondefense agencies to achieve net-zero carbon economy by 2050 and $4 billion across multiple agencies to support climate science research. The budget includes for $2 billion to create jobs that would transform the electric sector to carbon-zero generation by 2035. In addition, the budget includes $815 million for climate resilience and disaster planning across the government. The budget also calls for $600 million for electric vehicles and charging infrastructure across 18 federal agencies and $250 million for agencies to purchase low- and zero-emission buses.

Agency-specific climate funding highlights:

  • DOE: On the heels of the President’s infrastructure proposal, which would establish a nationwide Clean Electricity Standard, the budget proposal includes $1.9 billion for DOE to create an emissions-free electricity network. The budget also requests $8 billion for clean energy technologies, $7.4 billion for clean energy science, and $1 billion to create the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Climate, modeled after the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy.
  • NOAA: The budget would provide $6.9 billion to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) within Commerce, including a $1.4 billion increase from FY21 levels to expand climate observations, research, and other services.
  • EPA would receive $1.8 billion to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including a boost to climate research that nearly doubles the levels provided in FY21.
  • State: The State Department would provide $1.2 billion to contribute to the Paris Climate Agreement’s Green Climate Fund, which would help developing countries reduce emissions. In addition, the request includes $485 million to support other multilateral climate initiatives and another $691 million to assist developing countries with climate adaptation, clean energy production, and reducing emissions.
  • Agriculture: The Department of Agriculture budget would receive more than a $1 billion increase in forest resilience projects (i.e., $1.7 billion, up from $476 million for FY21), $400 million for rural electricity companies to decarbonize by 2035, and $6.5 billion for rural electric loans to support clean energy and energy storage.
  • Interior: While the President’s infrastructure proposal created a Civilian Climate Corps, the budget proposal would provide $300 million for the program. In addition, the budget calls for $200 million for Interior to study climate change and wildfires and $550 million to clean up abandoned mines and oil and gas wells.
  • HUD: The budget calls for the department to receive $800 million in energy efficiency and climate resiliency efforts.
  • HHS: The budget proposal would provide $110 million to the National Institutes of Health Climate Change and Human Health Program and $110 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Climate and Health Program.

Members of the Biden administration will begin to testify on Capitol Hill this week to defend the budget request. Sidley will be monitoring these hearings and the forthcoming full budget proposal with a focus on climate change funding.

This post is as of the posting date stated above. Sidley Austin LLP assumes no duty to update this post or post about any subsequent developments having a bearing on this post.