President Biden holds off on climate emergency declaration, will travel to Massachusetts

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden will travel to Massachusetts on Wednesday to promote new efforts to fight climate change, though he will not declare a state of emergency that would unlock federal resources to address the issue despite growing pressure from climate activists and Democratic lawmakers.

The White House said Tuesday it has not ruled out issuing such a statement later, which would allow the president to redirect funds to climate efforts without congressional approval. On Wednesday, Biden will announce other new climate actions when he visits a former coal-fired power plant in Somerset, Mass., which closed in 2017 but has since been reborn as an offshore wind facility.

But since Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.Va., stalled negotiations on climate spending and taxes last week, public attention has turned to a presidential emergency declaration and what the Biden administration might do with newfound powers.

“It’s not on the table for this week,” White House press secretary Karin Jean-Pierre said of a climate emergency declaration. “We’re still looking into it. I don’t have the upside or the downside.”

The president is trying to signal to Democratic voters that he is aggressively tackling global warming at a time when some of his supporters have despaired of a lack of progress. He has vowed to go it alone in the absence of congressional action.

The declaration of a climate emergency would be similar to the one issued by former President Donald Trump, boosting the construction of a wall on the southern border. It would allow Biden to redirect spending to accelerate renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power and accelerate the country’s transition away from fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas. The statement could also be used as a legal basis to block oil and gas drilling or other projects, though such actions would likely be challenged in court by energy companies or Republican-led states.

The focus on climate action comes amid a heatwave that has ravaged parts of Europe, with Britain hitting its hottest ever temperature in a country ill-prepared for such extreme weather.

The normally temperate nation was just the latest to be battered by unusually hot, dry weather that has sparked fires from Portugal to the Balkans and led to hundreds of heat-related deaths. Images of flames racing towards a French beach and Britons sweating – even on the beach – have sparked concerns about climate change.

The president pledged late last week to take strong executive action on climate after Manchin — who wielded a lot of influence over Biden’s legislative agenda because of Democrats’ slim majority in the Senate — hit the brakes on negotiations over proposals for new environmental programs. and higher taxes on the rich and corporations.

One of the biggest proponents of fossil fuels in the Democratic caucus, Manchin has blamed persistently high inflation for his reluctance to pursue another spending package. His resistance has angered other congressional Democrats who have stepped up pressure on Biden to act alone on climate.

“I think given the global crisis we’re facing, given the inability of Congress to address this existential threat, I think the White House needs to use all the resources and tools that it can,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders. I-Vt. In a climate emergency, “this is something I’ve been calling for for a long time.”

Biden, who served in the Senate for more than three decades, “is chained to the legislative process, thinking about his past as a senator,” Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., said at a news conference Monday night. “Now it’s solved and it has to go.”

John Podesta, chairman of the board of the liberal Center for American Progress, said environmental leaders met with senior White House officials on Friday to discuss policy ideas. Some proposals included strengthening regulations on vehicle and power plant emissions, reinstating a ban on crude oil exports and suspending new leases for oil drilling on federal lands and waters.

“If he’s going to follow through on his commitments to do everything he can to reduce emissions, he needs to pay attention to these critical regulatory issues that he faces,” said Podesta, a former climate adviser to President Barack Obama.

Ben King, associate director at the Rhodium Group, an independent research firm, said the United States is “nowhere close” to meeting Biden’s ambitious emissions reduction goals.

Biden scaled up the goal of reducing the nation’s emissions to at least 50 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. Under current federal and state policies, the U.S. is on track to reach a 24 percent reduction by 35%, according to Rhodium Latest group analysis.

“In the absence of meaningful political action, we are a long way from meeting the goals that the United States has committed to under the Paris Agreement,” King said, referring to a 2015 global climate conference.

Although Democrats and environmental groups have pressed Biden to act alone, some legal scholars have questioned whether a climate change emergency declaration is warranted.

“Emergency powers are designed for events like terrorist attacks, epidemics and natural disasters,” said Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the liberty and national security program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law.

Such powers “are not intended to address persistent problems, no matter how serious. And they are not intended to be a loophole around Congress,” Goitein wrote in a Washington Post op-ed last year.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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President Biden holds off on climate emergency declaration, will travel to Massachusetts Source link President Biden holds off on climate emergency declaration, will travel to Massachusetts

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