Environmental groups hailed Biden’s first 100 days as a milestone for climate action, and he continued with a series of green initiatives promoting offshore wind farms, long-haul transmission lines for renewable energy, more energy-efficient buildings and appliances, more fuel-efficient vehicles and more climate-conscious financial regulations.
But the $ 2.5 trillion U.S. jobs plan is clearly the centerpiece of Biden’s climate agenda, offering around $ 1 trillion for wind, solar, electric, and other accelerators for the energy transition. clean. Now climate activists fear that Biden is throwing these investments overboard to appease Republicans and West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, the coal-friendly centrist Democrat whose vote can basically decide what is allowed to pass in an equally divided Senate. They got more bad news last night when Biden’s senior climate adviser, Gina McCarthy, admitted in an interview with POLITICO that a clean electricity standard, one of the top priorities of the climate community, might fail. not appear in the final infrastructure bill.
“We are very excited about the actions of the President’s executive, but if he is to deliver on his climate commitments, they must be paired with transformative legislation,” said Tiernan Sittenfeld, lobbyist for the League of Conservation Voters. “Our future literally depends on it. “
The White House has tried to reassure its climate movement allies that it continues to push for an infrastructure bill that moves the needle on emissions. Biden visited a Ford plant in Detroit to tout the $ 174 billion for electric vehicles in his U.S. jobs plan, Vice President Kamala Harris visited a clean energy lab in Milwaukee to highlight the investments of the plan in research and development, and cabinet secretaries like Jennifer Granholm at Energy and Pete Buttigieg at Transport have repeatedly denounced the plan in the media. Last week, when Biden rejected a more modest infrastructure proposal from Senator Shelley Moore Capito (RW.Va.), one of the reasons he cited was that she had failed to tackle the climate crisis.
Ali Zaidi, Deputy White House climate adviser, said the administration is proving its commitment to the climate every day, rolling out changes for every sector of the economy to help achieve Biden’s goal reduce emissions by 50% from 2005 levels by 2030. Some of the changes have been quiet, such as the Department of Transportation’s efforts to facilitate the siting of transmission lines along federal rights-of-way, the resolution a trade dispute that kept a Korean electric vehicle battery plant open in Georgia; or a new research program promoting innovative efforts to reduce methane emissions.
Others could have more dramatic impacts, such as rejuvenating a long-dormant clean energy loan program with $ 40 billion in unused loan authorization, revising fuel efficiency standards for vehicles The EPA has weakened under President Donald Trump or phased out refrigerants that warm the planet called hydrofluorocarbons.
“The big takeaway here is that from the campaign through the transition and into the early days of this administration, we have focused on a sector-by-sector basis to advance the president’s climate priorities,” Zaidi said. . “We did it for electricity, transportation, industry, buildings and agriculture, and it all reinforces the good policy and the good policy of what we presented to Congress in the form of the American plan. for the job.”
No one doubts that Biden ideally wants an infrastructure bill with full funding for his climate priorities. What climate advocates fear is that he is content with an infrastructure bill without him, or maybe he finds himself without a bill after wasting months in the futile. pursuit of bipartisanship. The White House is in an awkward position as Manchin has demanded a real effort to garner support from Republicans, and Democrats can’t get by without Manchin on board.
But Democrats could lose control of the Senate if a single senator becomes ill or dies, so environmentalists who have watched Congress spend $ 6 trillion on Covid relief bills without addressing the climate would like to see a little more urgency for fix it now. They weren’t happy when Biden cut the U.S. Jobs Plan’s investments in clean energy research in a counter-offer to Capito, and they’re worried what might be cut next.
The most conflicting elements of the left climate are in public panic mode. The youth-focused Sunrise movement, which gave Biden’s initial climate plan an F-minus rating in the Democratic primary but praised its initial infrastructure plan for its climate ambition, has protested its negotiations with Capito and other Republicans outside the White House last week. Sunrise executive director Varshini Prakash warned on Tuesday that “anything less than a strong jobs and climate package is a death sentence for our generation.”
Mainstream environmentalists have tried to be more tightrope than Biden walks, but they’re also nervous. As much as they appreciate Biden’s efforts to reverse Trump’s environmental setbacks and advance clean energy through executive action, their top priority is a high-profile climate bill. They’re glad Biden took a ride in the new electric Ford F-150 Lightning, and they appreciate his executive order promoting wind farms off the California coast, but they really want him to sign a law putting a lot of effort into it. money in electric vehicles to transform transportation and create a clean electricity standard to transform the grid.
“Look, no one ever thought it would be easy,” said Jamal Raad, executive director of Evergreen Action, an influential group formed by former climate advisers to Washington Governor Jay Inslee. “But we have to get there if we are serious about delivering on the commitments we just made to the international community, and right now is the time to make or break.”
Global carbon emissions fell about 6% last year because Covid shut down so much economic activity, but that just means the rate at which the earth is temporarily warming has slowed a bit. The International Energy Agency has just warned that creating a net zero energy sector by 2050, a key goal of the Paris climate agreement, will require sweeping changes: no new oil exploration and gas, no new coal-fired power plants that cannot capture their carbon, no more sales of fossil fuel boilers after 2025 and no more sales of internal combustion engines after 2035.
Biden’s infrastructure plan embraced some of this radicalism; its clean electricity standard would require an 80% reduction in electricity emissions by 2030, essentially shutting down the US coal industry and growing the natural gas industry. But this was broadly consistent with Biden’s eagerness for bipartisanship, as many Republican lawmakers reject the scientific consensus that human activities are roasting the planet, while others reject the need for a costly and brutal government response. .
Rich Powell, director of ClearPath Action, a group of conservatives who support climate action, said issues like carbon capture, battery storage and transmission all had bipartisan support, but not a thousand effort. billion dollars to decarbonize the US economy in one fell swoop. He pointed to last week’s announcement of a new advanced zero-emission nuclear project, featuring Secretary Granholm and senior Wyoming Republicans, as the kind of bipartisan work Republicans might agree to accelerate. He criticized Biden’s moratorium on oil and gas drilling on public lands, his rejection of the Keystone pipeline and a recent White House report on the impacts of power plants on environmental justice, as the kind of ideological plea on the climate that could alienate Republicans and doom American jobs. Plan.
“There is a risk in a stand-alone partisan approach,” said Powell. “We strongly encourage people to view climate policy not as something that needs to be done all at once in this Congress, but as something that should be done in every Congress so that we don’t have these wild swings. in the momentum. Unfortunately, climate change is a chronic disease for the planet.
Zaidi, the Deputy White House climate adviser, also mentioned several examples of Republican support for Biden’s climate priorities, including a government-backed “green bank” that would invest in clean energy, incentives that would reward farmers for reducing emissions and efforts to reorganize the disaster. aid programs to focus on climate resilience. But that sort of speech makes many climate activists nauseous because it suggests that Biden is not just negotiating with Republicans because he wants to sound magnanimous or humorous Manchin, but because he genuinely believes Republicans may be willing to support a climate-friendly infrastructure bill. .
Behind the scenes, White House officials urged environmentalists to trust Biden and his long history of making sausage in Washington. They say he is not naive about the GOP under Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said “100% of our goal is to shut down this new administration.” And most environmentalists want to give him the benefit of the doubt after hearing him spout the climate rhetoric they’ve waited for their entire careers.
But all the gleeful talk about the deal brings back bad Democratic memories of 2009, when bipartisan support for President Barack Obama’s pro-market climate bill never materialized, and the bill crashed and crashed. burnt down on the Hill.
“I am an eternal optimist, and you have to be to work on these issues, but I am haunted by 2009,” said Sittenfeld of the League of Conservation Voters. “We can’t just sit around waiting for Republicans. We have to go big, we have to go fast and we have to get there. “