This is the eleventh in our series on the “ABCs of the AJP.”
America’s kids are the beneficiaries of many of the provisions of President Biden’s Jobs Plan, and several of the proposals would benefit them and their caretakers specifically. Children have become a focus point of discussions about climate change, because absent intervention they are poised to inherit a world that suffers from its negative effects without having contributed meaningfully to the emissions that bring it about. This has been a central narrative of the long-running Juliana litigation, for example. The Biden Administration has also recognized the intergenerational inequity of climate change in other policy initiatives, for example in its ongoing efforts to revise the social cost of greenhouse gases.
The AJP frames efforts related to children as an investment in the country’s future, recognizing that healthy, educated, and safe youth will become productive contributors to the American economy. To this end, the AJP proposes several initiatives that would reduce child exposure to traditional pollutants: Eliminate lead pipes and service lines in drinking water systems, retire old, dirty diesel school buses, and improve indoor air quality and ventilation in classrooms. These initiatives are expected to pay significant health dividends: As EPA has recognized, children are often more vulnerable to pollutants, which can stunt their growth and development. Consistent with the environmental justice focus of the Administration, many of these improvements would go to children in the most underserved communities.
These older buildings, vehicles, and other infrastructure will be replaced, retrofitted, or improved with efficient, emissions reducing, and resilient alternatives, which will help mitigate and prepare for climate harms. For example, the plan proposes $100 billion to modernize schools and childcare facilities, in the process making them more energy efficient. Similarly, the plan invests $213 billion in sustainable places to live for families. At least twenty percent of the country’s aging diesel school bus fleet will be replaced by electric vehicles.
The provisions targeted for children mirror a strategy found throughout the AJP: use federal funds and other incentives to jump start a transition to updated, climate-friendly infrastructure, with the hope that the private sector will continue the trend once the public expenditures complete. The school bus electrification target, for example, is part of a much broader Administration goal to promote adoption of EVs. Entities regulated by EPA would also be wise to watch whether this focus on children’s health carries beyond the AJP to other programs the agency administers: Administrator Michael Regan recently signaled a renewed focus on such issues in an address to EPA’s Children’s Health Protection Advisory Committee.