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I found this sentence below in one essay but I do not understand the structure.

"Plant-derived plastics, biodiesel, wind power and solar power are all things that are a step in the right direction, but the powers that be need to enforce the limits on CO2 emissions for the polluting industries in their countries for these to be effective."

What does "that be need" mean? And why does it not say "that are needed"? I am confused mainly by the structure that follows the comma ("but the powers that be need to enforce the limits on CO2 emissions for the polluting industries in their countries for these to be effective"). Where is the verb?

If someone could explain it to me, I would be so grateful.

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"Powers that be" is a fixed phrase, an idiom, that means individuals or organizations that have power at the present time. The verb you are looking for is "need".

Glossing the part after the comma,

"... but those in power need to enforce the limits on emissions by polluters for these* to be effective."

  • The word "these" refers to the items mentioned at the start of the sentence as "a step in the right direction".

Merriam-Webster "powers that be"

the people who decide what is allowed or acceptable in a group, organization, etc. The students wanted to have a big party, but the powers that be didn't approve.

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  • Thank you so much! Now it is clear! I was confused because I did know that there is such a phrase like "Powers that be...".
    – newdmk
    Nov 24, 2020 at 8:45
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    @bkostas You're welcome. I added a dictionary reference for the term. Nov 24, 2020 at 8:52
  • That is great! Thank you very much once again!
    – newdmk
    Nov 24, 2020 at 9:00

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