On this Earth Day, Biden faces a “headwind” in the climate agenda – Daily Local

Matthew Daly and Chris Magherian

WASHINGTON (AP) – A year ago, Joe Biden celebrated his first Earth Day as president by convening world leaders for a virtual summit on global warming, attended even by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping. Biden used the moment to nearly double the United States ’goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by bringing the country to the front line in the fight against climate change.

But months have since been marred by setbacks. Biden’s broadest proposals remain deadlocked on Capitol Hill, despite renewed warnings from scientists that the world is on the verge of a dangerous future marked by extreme heat, drought and weather.

In addition, Russia’s war in Ukraine has changed climate change policies, forcing Biden to release oil from the country’s strategic reserves and encourage more drilling in hopes of lowering sky-high gas prices that are devastating American wallets.

This is far from the sprint to pure energy that Biden – and his supporters – assumed when he took office. Although Biden is raising fuel-saving standards for vehicles and incorporating green policies into last year’s bipartisan infrastructure legislation, the lack of more progress casts a shadow over his second Earth Day as president.

Biden will mark the moment on Friday in Seattle, where he will be joined by lips. Biden is also scheduled to visit Portland, Oregon, on Thursday as part of a crossing of the Northwest Pacific, a region that has often been at the forefront of environmental efforts.

Administration officials are defending Biden’s record for global warming, saying there is still work to be done.

“Two things can be true at once,” said Ali Zaidi, the president’s deputy national climate adviser. “We can do a lot and we have a long way to go.”

Zaidi acknowledged that “we have a headwind, we have problems”, but also said that the president has “a mandate to promote action on this issue.”

Kyle Tysdel, director of the climate and energy program at the Western Center for Environmental Law, said Biden had not kept his promise at last year’s Earth Day summit.

“Climate action was at the heart of President Biden’s campaign, and his promises on this existential issue were the main reason the public chose him,” Tysdel said. “Achieving climate results is not a matter of domestic policy, it is a matter of life and death.”

Biden expected to adopt a $ 1.75 trillion plan to expand education programs, social services and environmental policy. But Republicans opposed the bill, known as the Build Back Better, and it failed to gain unanimous support from Democrats, who have a small majority in the Senate.

The latest blow was dealt by Senator Joe Manchin of DW.Va., who owes his personal fortune to coal and is a state that defines itself largely through fossil fuel mining. Democrats hope to revive the bill in one form or another, but it is unclear what exactly will support Manchin, which will jeopardize any possible deal.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said this week that talks were ongoing, although Biden did not release them. “The fact that he is not talking about it does not mean that these conversations are not taking place behind the scenes,” she said.

Administration officials are expected to speak at a rally near the White House on Saturday as climate, labor and social justice groups call on Congress to pass climate legislation before Remembrance Day. Similar events are planned in dozens of cities, as activists stress the need for serious investment to boost clean energy and create jobs.

The White House wants approval for more than $ 300 billion in clean energy tax credits, which supporters say is crucial to achieving Biden’s goal of reducing emissions by 52% from 2005 to 2030.

Without tax credits, “I don’t see a way,” said Nat Keohain, a former Obama energy adviser who is now president of the Independent Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. Achieving the midterm elections in November without them “would mean a failure to promise a first year,” he said.

Asked if Biden’s goal of reducing emissions was achievable, Psaki said: “We continue to pursue it and will continue to do our best to achieve it.”

Psaki noted that the $ 1 trillion infrastructure law includes a number of climate policies, including funding the construction of 500,000 charging stations for electric vehicles. However, the consulting company McKinsey estimates that by 2030, about 30 million chargers will be needed.

The war in Ukraine has exacerbated political problems inside the country, sending a shock wave to global energy markets and raising gas prices.

It also made Biden change his mind about oil drilling. Last week, Biden advanced with the first onshore sales of oil and gas drilling leases on state lands, a move that environmental groups abandoned, although the administration said it was doing so only by court order.

While the litigation continues, meanwhile Biden is encouraging new domestic production.

“The bottom line is that if we want lower gas prices, we need to have more oil supplies right now,” Biden said in March.

The lease plan is “an ugly betrayal of Joe Biden’s campaign promises and his administration’s rhetoric about environmental justice and climate action,” said Colin Reese, U.S. political director at Oil Change International.

“Biden decides to address the polluters in front of people at the expense of frontline communities and the future of the planet,” he added.

The war in Ukraine has also thwarted diplomatic efforts to combat climate change.

John Kerry, Biden’s international climate envoy, has focused much of his efforts on pushing China, the world’s largest coal consumer, to move faster to clean energy. But the work is “now harder” amid China’s defense against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Kerry said on Wednesday.

“Some of the differences between our countries have escalated and intensified, and this complicates diplomacy,” he said during an online discussion on climate finance with the Center for Global Development.

Kerry’s aides downplay the talk that he could leave the administration now that he has worked for more than a year, and he remains a staunch defender of Biden’s climate efforts. But lately, his tone has become more pessimistic, especially as Biden’s climate proposals remain deadlocked in Congress.

The administration has also been shocked by recent reports that Biden’s climate adviser Gina McCarthy is planning to resign. McCarthy called the reports “just inaccurate” and said she was “excited about future opportunities.”

Another of Biden’s climate efforts could divide the environmental community. His administration plans to offer $ 6 billion in funding to prevent the closure of nuclear power plants that have financial problems. Although the facilities generate carbon-free electricity, some activists are wary of them because of concerns about how to dispose of nuclear waste, and because of the possibility of devastating accidents.

“We are using all available tools to make this country work on clean energy by 2035,” said Energy Minister Jennifer Granholm.

Abigail Dylen, president of the environmental group Earthjustice, said that after last year’s failures, “the spirits darkened.” While she praised some of the policies Biden has achieved so far, she said “this is not the scale of climate action we need – period.”

Republicans are now ready to regain control of at least one chamber in Congress in the midterm elections in November, which means a limited window for progress. Dylen and some other activists suggested Biden declare a climate emergency and use the Defense Manufacturing Act to expand the use of renewable energy.

“It’s time to pull all the stops,” she said.


Associated Press writers Josh Boak and Ellen Nickmeyer contributed to this report.

Back to top button