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Biden announces modest steps to tackle ‘clear and present danger’ of climate

Biden has made tackling global warming greenhouse gases one of his top priorities, alongside tackling the pandemic.

But those ambitions suffered a blow last week when Sen. Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) rejected plans to spend $300 billion to expand clean energy incentives. And last month, the Supreme Court erected legal barriers to the federal government’s ability to regulate carbon dioxide from power plants, the second-largest source of greenhouse gases.

“As President, I have a responsibility to act with urgency and determination when our nation faces a clear and present danger. And that is what it is. It is literally, not figuratively, a clear and present danger,” Biden said.

His comments come as more than 100 million Americans suffocate in 100-degree temperatures and European nations face record heat. The western United States is suffering the worst mega-drought in 1,200 years, drying up reservoirs and slowing the flow of the Colorado River that supplies water to tens of millions of people.

Biden was visibly sweating as he delivered his speech on a sweltering 90-plus-degree afternoon in southeastern Massachusetts on the second day of a heat wave that has forced communities across the state to open cooling centers for residents and to declare thermal emergencies. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Bill Keating (D-Mass.) donned black baseball caps to shield themselves from the beating sun.

As he has done since the campaign, Biden has sought to frame his climate agenda in terms of spurring job growth in the new competitive spheres of the economy. The backdrop to Wednesday’s appearance helped send this message: Biden spoke facing the site of the closed Brayton Point coal-fired power station which is being redeveloped into the world’s first offshore wind turbine manufacturing plant. Massachusetts, a dusty, rocky expanse on the banks of the Taunton River filled with towering power lines and vast warehouses being converted for wind power generation.

“It’s the perfect place for President Biden to talk about it, to focus on climate change, because it’s the former site of a dirty coal-fired power plant that threatened not only the climate but the health of the surrounding community,” Brad Campbell, president of the Conservation Law Foundation, which led the effort to shut down the old factory, said in an interview.

Biden on Wednesday proposed the first-ever offshore wind energy zone on 700,000 acres in the Gulf of Mexico, which the White House said would provide enough electricity to power 3 million homes. This isn’t an entirely new idea: The Department of the Interior was already evaluating parts of the Gulf of Mexico for wind power. Biden also ordered Interior to promote offshore wind in the southern and mid-Atlantic Ocean and on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

While these measures would help bring renewable energy into the grid, Biden is far from meeting his goals of achieving net zero electricity by 2035. Fossil fuels now provide 60.8% of US electricity, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

Achieving Biden’s zero-carbon goal gets even tougher without the grants included in previous Democrat releases reconciliation package. These provisions were the most important factor needed to achieve Biden’s broader climate goal, according to an analysis by the Senate Majority Leader chuck schumerit is said the office.

While Manchin was the one to upend the Democrats’ legislative agenda, they’ve also faced stiff opposition from Republicans who argue Biden’s plans will hurt the US economy – especially the oil industry and gas station that has exploded since the early years of this century. The GOP has also benefited from the historic rise in gasoline prices this year, even though that rise has been tied to a global oil market — and a broader inflation trend that’s hardly a uniquely American problem. .

Meanwhile, raging wildfires and record heat compounded by climate change are costing lives, reducing productivity and destroying property. The White House noted that 20 extreme weather and climate-related events caused $1 billion or more in damages last year, totaling $145 billion. Since April, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has, under a new program, conducted 564 heat-related inspections to prevent workplace illnesses and deaths.

Yet executive action alone is unlikely to get Biden on track with his climate goals, which include cutting the country’s greenhouse gas emissions to half their 2005 levels d by the end of this decade. That failure in turn threatens to dampen the enthusiasm of younger, progressive voters that Democrats need in this year’s midterm elections.

Climate activists and some Democratic lawmakers have urged Biden to take much bolder unilateral action — such as declaring a climate emergency that would give him sweeping powers to halt fossil fuel exports, mobilize clean energy generation and reprogram spending to strengthen climate defences.

“The president has the ability to protect our country when our national security is threatened,” the senator said. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) told reporters this week. “And clearly, the climate crisis is a threat to national security.”

He joined eight other senators in a Wednesday letter urging Biden to take such a step.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Tuesday that a climate emergency remains on the table, although no decision is expected on it this week. A senior administration official told reporters on a Wednesday call that Biden “is going to be very clear that since Congress is not going to act on this emergency, he will,” adding that next steps will come. in the days and weeks to come.

“It’s an emergency and I’m going to look at it that way,” Biden said. “As president, I will use my executive powers to address the climate crisis in the absence of congressional action.”

Biden’s allies have said they are willing to give the administration space to plot its next course of executive action as it emerges from the rubble of reconciliation, where Manchin’s opposition last week killed efforts to pass clean energy and electric vehicle tax credits through Congress.

“We had all been on Plan A,” said Tiernan Sittenfeld, senior vice president of government affairs at the League of Conservation Voters. “It takes a minute to recalibrate.”

Despite the deadlock in Congress and four years of regulatory backtracking by the Trump administration, the United States is actually on track to meet former President Barack Obama’s goal of reducing pollution from greenhouse gases – which called for reducing these emissions to 26% below 2005 levels by 2025. However, these reductions are nowhere big enough to meet what climate scientists say the world needs to prevent the worst effects of climate change from taking root.

“If I were the president, I would ask my staff for a list of all my authorities, and I would rate them all for what elements of this challenge they could solve,” the senator said. Martin Heinrich (DN.M.) told POLITICO.

The White House has won a few previous legislative victories and taken unilateral steps to move closer to those goals. It is already doling out billions of dollars for clean energy demonstration and electric transportation from $1.2 Trillion Infrastructure Actsuspended tariffs that raised the costs of imported solar equipment and set a government-wide requirement to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 for all electricity it buys, contracts and other services.

Biden announced two more measures on Wednesday that the White House said reflected an increased drive to go it alone on the climate: He issued new guidelines for a program that would make it easier for low-income residents to purchase efficient air conditioners and announced $2.3 billion for a federal Emergency Management Agency program that helps communities build their defenses against the effects of climate change.

But climate hawks have been appalled by Biden’s reluctance to use executive powers to date. Biden came into office after fixing federal agencies that fractured under former President Donald Trump, who actively antagonized climate activists. Replenishing bureaucracy at key agencies like the EPA has led to slower-than-desired progress in developing regulations, government officials said, but the administration now has several rules on hold for the coming year. .

“There is still a lot, a lot, a lot to do,” the senator said. Sheldon White House (DR.I.) told reporters on Monday.

Josh Siegel and Lisa Kashinsky contributed to this report.


Politico

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