There are few people more connected to their surrounding land and environment than Native Americans. And as such, few people are more aware of the impact a changing climate has had on their communities and way of life.
Scorching hot temperatures, crop-destroying droughts, and loss of land and infrastructure are just part of the crisis Native people continue to face when it comes to climate change. That is why the signing of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) by President Joe Biden comes at such a critical and consequential time.
While the IRA will of course not single-handedly reverse the effects of years of climate change, it does – for the first time ever – give Tribes a fighting chance in combating it. The act directs $720 million directly to Tribal governments for drought relief, electrification and other climate resiliency measures.
For example, the new law directs $225 million towards Tribal communities to develop high-efficiency electric home rebate programs, $150 million to electrify homes on Indian land without access to electricity, and another $75 million for energy loan programs. The money is to be spent over a 10-year period.
The law also increases the loan guarantee program for Tribal governments from $2 billion to $20 billion. More importantly, some of the grants that will be available to tribal nations do not require tribes to provide matching funds. This is a tremendous benefit to cash-strapped Tribal governments who have fought matching fund requirements for years.
Beyond the energy and climate provisions, the IRA also creates savings on health care costs, Medicare expenses, and lowers the prices of prescription drugs – all of which benefit Tribal members, especially our elders.
The law does come with some drawbacks, however. Most notably the increase in incentives for mining, and expanded leases for oil and gas exploration – most of which occurs on or near Native land. But that is the price for compromise, to get something this significant passed in a Congress that is nearly evenly divided.
It is our hope at Navajo Power, that the IRA is just the beginning. That the urgency of climate change transcends partisan boundaries and that we can continue to work together to achieve real, lasting change.
For our land, and our people.