SOMERSET, Mass./WASHINGTON (Reuters) — President Joe Biden unveiled new executive steps to address climate in a visit to Massachusetts on Wednesday. The steps are expected to fall short of declaring the federal emergency many Democrats urged.
“Climate change is literally an existential threat to our nation and to the world,” Biden said.
He said the threats posed by climate change represent a true emergency, but stopped short of declaring a federal emergency.
“This is an emergency, an emergency, and I will look at it that way,” Biden stated.
Democratic lawmakers and environmental groups have been calling for the White House to take aggressive measures on climate change after Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said last week he was not ready to support key climate provisions in Congress, a critical loss in the evenly divided Senate.
White House climate adviser Gina McCarthy told reporters on Air Force One that Biden’s new executive actions will include Federal Emergency Management Agency funding to help states build cooling centers to deal with excessive heat and to tackle other continued impacts of climate change. The $2.3 billion funding to FEMA’s Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities Program is the largest ever of its kind to the program, the White House said.
A White House official said new funding could expand flood control, shore up utilities, retrofit buildings and help low-income families pay for heating and cooling costs.
Biden will also announce new support for the domestic offshore wind industry. The administration has identified 700,000 acres for possible offshore wind energy development in the Gulf of Mexico, the White House said.
Biden spoke from a former coal-fired plant, which will play a role in supporting the state’s offshore wind industry as it transitions into a manufacturing hub for undersea cables.
McCarthy said Biden will lay out more executive actions on climate change in the coming weeks.
Biden has been under pressure to declare a climate emergency, which would enable the use of the Defense Production Act to ramp up production on a wide range of renewable energy products and systems.
Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon, along with eight other Democrats, sent a letter to Biden on Wednesday urging him to declare a climate emergency and use aggressive executive actions to limit emissions from fossil fuels produced on public lands and waters and maximize use of electric vehicles.
But the president is not expected to declare a climate emergency on Wednesday, even as a heat wave swept across the country and threatened millions of Americans and the power grid.
Biden promised tough action on climate change in his presidential campaign and pledged in international climate negotiations to cut climate pollution by 50% by 2030 and reach 100% clean electricity by 2035.
The climate agenda has been derailed by several major setbacks, including Congress failing to pass crucial climate and clean energy measures in a federal budget bill, record-setting gasoline prices and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine disrupting global energy markets.
A Supreme Court ruling last month that limited the federal government’s authority to issue sweeping regulations to reduce carbon emissions from power plants may also undermine Biden’s climate plans.
When asked whether Biden has concluded there is no longer any option for a climate bill, a senior White House official told reporters that other people could answer that question, evidently suggesting a lot depends on Manchin. “Our focus is on what we can do,” the official said.
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