In an address to the nation Wednesday, US President Joe Biden unveiled a $2.3bn climate plan to help build extreme weather-resistant infrastructure and assist those affected by the climate crisis plaguing the United States.
Biden presented his new climate plan just as record-breaking heat waves and wildfires sweep across the United States and Europe, with tens of millions of Americans across over 20 states living under heat warnings.
The funding, he said, would go to “expanding flood control, shoring up utilities, retrofitting buildings, and helping families pay for heating and cooling costs.”
Prior to the announcement, Biden was speculated to declare a climate emergency which would have given him the ability to halt new federal oil drilling and ramp up new clean energy projects. Instead, he only stated that climate change was an emergency — perhaps hinting at a climate emergency declaration in the future.
Biden’s new climate plan: Infrastructure at home, wind energy abroad
Speaking at a former coal plant turned wind power facility in Somerset, Massachusetts, Biden declared a series of executive actions that would assist those currently affected by the extreme temperatures across the country and unveiled plans for new clean energy projects.
During his address, Biden announced funding for cooling centers and new offshore wind projects in the Gulf of Mexico in what seems to be an attempt to pass some type of climate change legislation.
“Since Congress is not acting as it should […] this is an emergency and I will look at it that way,” Biden said. “As president, I’ll use my executive powers to combat the climate crisis in the absence of executive action.”
What we are seeing now are massive heatwaves. Thousands of people are dying. We're seeing more drought. We're seeing more extreme weather disturbances. Given that reality, it is literally incomprehensible that we have a Congress which is incapable of acting. pic.twitter.com/ql7ndW117G
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) July 20, 2022
According to Biden, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is to provide $2.3 million in funding to help states install cooling centers to combat extreme temperatures and other climate change-related weather changes. The new funding could assist in anything involving flood control, shoring up utilities, and covering heating and cooling costs for low-income families.
Alongside funding, Biden announced new off-shore wind projects in the Gulf of Mexico — the Department of Interior having already identified 700,000 acres of possible land for wind energy development.
If successful, Biden’s new wind facilities would create enough energy to power more than three million homes and help the administration reach its goal of deploying 30 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2030.
Proud to stand with @POTUS today as he announced plans to combat climate change and on advancing our green energy future. Offshore wind is coming to MA and there was no better place to have this announcement than the South Coast, which is the hub of our country’s Blue Economy. pic.twitter.com/eNC0ABT9Im
— Congressman Bill Keating (@USRepKeating) July 21, 2022
But no climate emergency (yet)
One of the most anticipated announcements in Biden’s address on Wednesday that failed to come to light was a declaration of climate emergency in accordance with the extreme heat that is wreaking havoc across the US.
Democrats and environmental groups have been urging Biden to declare a climate emergency in order to reinstate his failed climate initiatives by enabling the National Emergency Act (NEA), which would enable the administration to halt oil and gas drilling and replace them with renewable energy projects.
Senator Bernie Sanders was among the Democrats pushing Biden to enable the NEA.
“Declaring the climate crisis a national emergency under the NEA would unlock powers to rebuild a better economy with significant, concrete actions,” the senators wrote in a letter. “Under the NEA, you could redirect spending to build out renewable energy systems on military bases, implement large-scale clean transportation solutions and finance distributed energy projects to boost climate resiliency.”
Yet the decision, if made, could lead Republicans to sue Biden for his “executive” move.
Instead, in his address Biden only referred to climate change as an emergency:
“Climate change is literally an existential threat to our nation and to the world. This is an emergency, an emergency, and I will look at it that way.”
Yet Biden’s climate agenda is still in freefall
Biden had previously pledged to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 50-52% by the end of the decade as well as to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. Yet repetitive failed attempts to pass climate legislation have made this goal less and less a reality.
During the start of Biden’s presidency, his administration announced an ambitious climate bill, the Build Back Better plan, which was set to limit oil and gas drilling and focus on clean energy initiatives with more than $500 million to fund such efforts.
However, after several attempts, the bill failed to pass due to repeated opposition from West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin.
Just last week, climate legislation again failed to pass in Congress after Manchin expressed disagreement, stating that he will continue to refuse signing a climate bill until inflation slows.
West Virginia — the state Manchin represents — is the second largest coal-producing state in the country according to the US Energy Information Administration, pushing out 12.6% of the nation’s coal in 2021.
Despite a drop in recent years, West Virginia still relies heavily on coal production for jobs and economic revenue for the state — posing a complication for someone like Manchin who needs to be protecting the interests of the state.
Manchin, however, has been widely accused of receiving loads of money from oil and gas companies — more than others in Congress — which has sparked controversy over his actual intentions.
The Supreme Court’s decision in June which restricted the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ability to regulate factories’ carbon emissions has also made a significant blow to Biden’s climate agenda.
In attempts to get his climate intivaties back on track, Biden announced clean energy and climate change funding Wednesday — but in the grand scheme of things, his announcement appears to be a meager attempt to combat what is an everso threatening and extremely present climate crisis.
To truly combat the extreme heat and current climate change dangers seen across the globe, Biden will have to do a lot more than implement new clean energy projects; perhaps most importantly, he’ll need to focus on the root cause of it all — rising emissions.
If America continues to install new clean energy projects without reducing harmful carbon emissions, clean energy attempts will remain obsolete in the face of a looming, seemingly inevitable danger already at the country’s doorstep.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by the authors are their own, not those of Impakter.com — In the Featured Photo: Market Lake Prescribed Fire. Featured Photo Credit: National Interagency Fire Center/Austin Catlin, BLM.