Biden seeks to revive climate agenda as heat waves slam US, Europe

The Supreme Court and lawmakers blocked President Joe Biden’s efforts to address climate change, but he tried to resurrect them on Wednesday as heat waves wreaked havoc in the US and Europe.

The mounting danger has been underscored by the summer’s rocketing temperatures, which have put 100 million Americans under extreme heat advisories and are also making life miserable across Europe.

Biden declared that the threat posed by climate change was “actually and not figuratively, a clear and present danger,” and he announced executive measures that included investing $2.3 billion to help the US create infrastructure that could survive climate disasters.

“Our communities’ and our residents’ health actually hang in the balance… Additionally at risk is our national security… Our economy is also under danger. So we must take action.

In a speech in Massachusetts at a former coal-fired power plant, Biden asserted that his administration would take whatever action was required, whether or not lawmakers were on board.

“Congress is not conducting itself properly… I’ll treat this as an emergency and proceed accordingly. I’ll utilize my executive authority as president to address the climate catastrophe, he declared.

But he stopped short of declaring a formal climate emergency, which would grant him additional policy powers. Upon his return home, when asked about the emergency designation, Biden told reporters: “I will make that decision soon.”

Repeated setbacks
Biden began his term last year promising to fulfil campaign pledges to tackle the global climate crisis, but his agenda has faced blow after blow.

His first day in office, Biden signed an executive order to bring the United States back into the Paris climate agreement, followed later by an ambitious announcement that he was targeting a 50-52 percent reduction from 2005 levels in US net greenhouse gas pollution by 2030.

But his signature Build Back Better legislation, which would have included $550 billion for clean energy and other climate initiatives, is all but dead after failing to receive the necessary backing in Congress as fellow Democrat Joe Manchin said he would not support the bill in an evenly divided Senate.

And last month, the conservative-leaning Supreme Court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cannot issue broad greenhouse gas regulations without congressional approval.

“When it comes to fighting climate change, I will not take ‘no’ for an answer,” Biden said.

“I will do everything in my power to clean our air and water, protect our people’s health, to win the clean energy future… Our children and grandchildren are counting on us. Not a joke.”

Among the new executive orders was funding to promote efficient air conditioning, and an order to advance wind energy development off the Atlantic Coast and Florida’s Gulf Coast.

The Biden administration has framed climate policies as a job creation project — and as a national security issue, made more urgent by soaring fuel prices in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The White House said in a statement that Biden was seeking “to turn the climate crisis into an opportunity, by creating good-paying jobs in clean energy and lowering costs for families.”

His speech on Wednesday was at a shuttered coal-fired power plant that will be used for a cable manufacturing factory to supply offshore wind facilities.

State Department spokesman Ned Price this week pointed to the extreme heat wave tormenting Europe this week — with Britain recording a temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) — as more proof that climate action cannot wait.

“We are committed to taking advantage of this moment and doing everything we can, including on the world stage,” Price told reporters, “to ensure that this decisive decade does not go by without us taking appropriate action.”

 

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