New executive strengthens Biden hand at start of climate summit | Chicago News


President Joe Biden speaks at a press conference following the G20 Leaders’ Summit, Sunday, October 31, 2021, in Rome. (AP Photo / Evan Vucci)

President Joe Biden heads to a United Nations climate conference on Monday, energized by a new legislative framework that, if passed, would be the biggest step the United States has ever taken to tackle climate change.

The $ 555 billion climate spending plan is the centerpiece of a broad set of domestic policies that Biden and Congressional Democrats presented on Thursday, hours before the president travels to Europe for another summit before the climate meeting in Glasgow, Scotland.

Biden called the plan “the most important investment to address the climate crisis that has ever occurred, beyond any other advanced country in the world.”

While far from certain of being passed in a tightly divided Congress, the new framework reassured nervous Democrats and environmental leaders that a president who has made climate action a key focus of his administration will not arrive in Glasgow empty-handed.

The plan didn’t give Biden everything he wanted, but supporters still believe that, if passed, it would put the United States on track to meet Biden’s goal of halving carbon pollution by 2030.

“This is a real signal to the world that the United States is back and showing leadership on climate change,” said Tiernan Sittenfeld, senior vice president of the League of Conservation Voters.

Biden’s plan includes more than $ 300 billion in tax incentives for renewables such as wind and solar power, along with investments to boost nuclear power, dramatically increase the number of electric vehicles, and boost production of batteries and other advanced materials.

The plan would also spend at least $ 100 billion to tackle extreme weather conditions such as forest fires, hurricanes and droughts, tackle “legacy pollution” in hard-hit areas and establish a Civilian Climate Corps, a New Deal style program to create thousands of jobs. trails, restore streams and help prevent catastrophic forest fires.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm on Sunday called the level of investment in clean energy “unbelievable” and said it demonstrates the importance of “getting America to lead as we move into ”the climate summit.

But a proposal to reward power companies that switch from fossil fuels to clean energy and penalize those that don’t has been scrapped following opposition from state coalman Joe Manchin, DW. Go. And the fate of a proposed royalty on methane leaks during oil and gas production was also uncertain, although Liberal Democrats hoped it would be included.

A recent analysis by the Rhodium Group, an independent research firm, found that the passage of a bipartite infrastructure bill and a broader set of climate and national policies, combined with regulations from major federal agencies and state actions, could reduce US greenhouse gas emissions by 45%. to 51% below 2005 levels by 2030.

“We actually believe the United States can still put the goal within reach, but it will take a lot of sustained follow-up action from the executive and states once Congress is over to do the rest. out of the way, ”said John Larsen, energy systems expert and co-author of the study.

He called Biden’s target, set at a virtual White House climate meeting in April, “ambitious,” but said it’s “better to aim high and push as hard as possible when science tells you that’s literally what it takes “.

The climate target is a key requirement of the 2015 Paris climate agreement, which Biden joined on his first day in office. It’s also an important marker as Biden moves towards his ultimate goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Biden also announced a plan to double financial aid to the poorest countries to $ 11.4 billion by 2024 so those countries can switch to cleaner energy and deal with the worsening impact of global warming. The plan brings rich countries closer to their long-promised but unrealized goal of $ 100 billion a year in climate assistance to developing countries.

Biden “looks at the climate more than any previous president, and it looks like he’s ready to continue to make it a top priority throughout his first term, which would be the first time a US president has done anything like that, ”said Larsen, who worked in the energy department under President Barack Obama. He cited Biden’s actions to join the Paris Agreement, kill the Keystone XL pipeline, and suspend leasing of oil and gas on federal lands, among other actions.

Even without signed legislation, Biden’s framework shows U.S. leadership on climate change, experts said. The United States can now tell China and other big polluters, “We have set ourselves an ambitious target. We have taken the first significant steps to achieve this goal. What are you going to do? ” Larsen said.

Still, there is pressure on Biden and Congress to pass the infrastructure bill and the broader domestic policy package during the two-week climate summit or shortly thereafter.

“I think if the United States is not in a position, before the end (of the climate summit), to demonstrate that it has policies in place, there is no way around that, credibility will take a hit, ”Nat Keohane said. , President of the Independent Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.

While failure to pass legislation wouldn’t be fatal if Congress passed a bill later in November or December, time is running out, Keohane said. “Now is the time to get as much as possible through Congress now,” he said, “because everything else will have to be done by regulation” which could be overruled by a future Republican president.

Even as he prepares to cut carbon emissions, Biden is feeling pressure from Republicans who unanimously oppose his climate and energy proposals and blame him for a sharp increase in gas prices. energy, including a $ 1 per gallon increase in gasoline prices since January.

“Because of Joe Biden’s radical anti-energy agenda, people in every corner of this country are paying higher prices for energy,” harming struggling families, the elderly and those on fixed incomes said Wyoming Senator John Barrasso, the top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Energy prices have risen in recent months as the economy reopens following COVID-19 closures. Crude oil prices have climbed more than 60% this year amid high demand and booming supply chains, prompting Biden to press Saudi Arabia and other exporters to increase production of oil as a result of reductions during the pandemic.

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said there was no contradiction between Biden’s climate goals and the demand for more imported oil.

“It’s not a switch. We don’t stop all fossil fuel use in our economy overnight, ” Sullivan told reporters as he headed to Europe with the president. “We still need these fossil fuels during the transition period to make sure our economy is functioning, that jobs are created, that working families have their homes heated at night, and so on.

Officials “must immediately pay attention to the energy supply today and work towards a net zero future,” he said.

Granholm, appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” said Biden was considering releasing oil from the Strategic Oil Reserve to lower prices, but did not make a final decision.

“Let me just say … these rising fossil fuel prices are the reason why we need to double our efforts to diversify our fuel supply to move to clean fuel,” she said.

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