WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden will announce new actions on climate change that he can take on his own just days after an influential Democratic senator quashed hopes for a sweeping legislative package of new environmental programs this year.
Biden is to unveil the latest efforts during a visit on Wednesday to a former coal-fired power plant in Somerset, Massachusetts, that is shifting to offshore wind manufacturing. It’s the embodiment of the transition to clean energy that Biden is seeking but has struggled to realize in the first 18 months of his presidency.
Wednesday’s executive actions include new initiatives to bolster the domestic offshore wind industry as well as efforts to help communities cope with soaring temperatures through programs administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Health and Human Services, according to a White House official.
The trip comes as historic temperatures bake Europe and the United States. Temperatures reached 115 degrees in Portugal as wildfires raged in Spain and France, and Britain on Tuesday shattered its record for highest temperature ever registered. At least 60 million Americans could experience triple-digit temperatures over the next several days as cities around the U.S. sweat through more intense and longer-lasting heat waves that scientists blame on global warming.
The actions that Biden announces on Wednesday will not include a national emergency declaration to address the climate crisis — something that has been sought by activists and Democratic lawmakers after Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., last week scuttled talks on a long-delayed legislative package.
White House officials have said the option remains under consideration. Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Tuesday declined to outline a timetable for a decision aside from saying no such order would be issued this week.
Gina McCarthy, Biden’s climate adviser, said the president is not “shying away” from treating climate as an emergency. She told CNN on Wednesday that he will be announcing a series of actions “over the next few weeks” to address the threat.
Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., said he was “confident that the president is ultimately ready to do whatever it takes in order to deal with this crisis.”
“I think that he’s made that clear in his statement last Friday, and I think coming to Massachusetts is a further articulation of that goal,” Markey told reporters on Tuesday.
Biden has come under considerable pressure to issue an emergency declaration on climate, which would allow him to redirect federal resources to bolster renewable energy programs that would help accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels. The declaration also could be used as a legal basis to block oil and gas drilling or other projects, although such actions would likely be challenged in court by energy companies or Republican-led states.
Jean-Pierre declined to detail internal deliberations on such a declaration, which would be similar to the one issued by Biden’s Republican predecessor, Donald Trump, who declared a national emergency to build a wall on the southern border when lawmakers refused to allocate money for that effort.
Biden pledged last week to take significant executive actions on climate after monthslong discussions between Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., came to a standstill. The West Virginia senator cited stubbornly high inflation as the reason for his hesitation, although he has long protected energy interests in his coal- and gas-producing state.
For now, Manchin has said he will only agree to a legislative package that shores up subsidies to help people buy insurance under the 2010 health care law as well as allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices that will ultimately lower the cost of pharmaceuticals for consumers.
The White House has indicated it wants Congress to take that deal, and Biden will address the climate issue on his own.
“I’m going to use every power I have as president to continue to fulfill my pledge to move toward dealing with global warming,” Biden told reporters over the weekend in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, after the talks between Schumer and Manchin were derailed.
Biden on Wednesday will be visiting the former Brayton Point power plant, which closed in 2017 after burning coal for more than five decades. The plant will now become an offshore wind manufacturing site.
A new report says the U.S. and other major carbon-polluting nations are falling short on pledges to fight climate change. Among the 10 biggest carbon emitters, only the European Union has enacted polices close to or consistent with international goals of limiting warming to just a few more tenths of a degree, according to scientists and experts who track climate action in countries.