US President Joe Biden is set to announce a series of measures to combat climate change in a major policy speech Wednesday, and will warn that without congressional action, he plans to turn to even wider executive activity, the White House said.
Biden — who will deliver his address from a former coal power plant in Massachusetts — will make clear that time is running out to tackle the “existential threat” of global warming, a White House official said.
But he will apparently stop short of declaring a climate emergency, a designation that would grant him additional policy powers — at least for now.
Among the executive orders he is expected to unveil are additional funding to help protect communities dealing with extreme heat and actions to boost US production of wind power.
The efforts are part of the administration’s goals to move “the US power sector away from the pollution, environmental injustice, and volatile price swings of the past,” the White House official said, and “toward the good-paying jobs, lower costs, and energy security of the future.”
Biden began his term last year promising to fulfill campaign pledges to tackle the global climate crisis, but his agenda has faced blow after blow from Congress and the Supreme Court.
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 in 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 Democratic Senator Joe Manchin said he would not support the bill.
And last month, the Supreme Court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cannot issue broad greenhouse gas regulations without congressional approval.
The Biden administration has framed climate policies as a national security issue, made all the more urgent by soaring fuel prices in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Not only does it affect our infrastructure… It has an impact on our readiness,” White House spokesman John Kirby said Tuesday.
Also on Tuesday, State Department spokesman Ned Price 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.”