There was rampant speculation this week that President Joe Biden, under pressure from some congressional Democrats and progressive activists, would declare a “national emergency” in regard to climate change and utilize the expanded authorities such a declaration would entail to take executive action on environmental issues.
It had been initially thought that such a climate change emergency declaration could come as soon as Wednesday when the president would deliver a speech on climate change in Massachusetts, but now sources are unclear on when or even if such a declaration will be made, The Hill reported.
As usual, the White House was vague and noncommittal when pressed by the media outlet over the when and why of a climate emergency declaration, with one unnamed administration official saying in response only that “The President made clear that if the Senate doesn’t act to tackle the climate crisis and strengthen our domestic clean energy industry, he will. We are considering all options and no decision has been made.”
National climate change emergency declaration
The Washington Post was the first to report Monday about the possibility of President Biden declaring a national climate change emergency as well as the likelihood of new executive actions in that regard in the coming days and weeks.
This will-he-or-won’t-he speculation was largely driven by the fact that Senate Democrats have again failed to make any sort of serious effort to pass climate change-related legislation — though a united Republican caucus plus relatively moderate Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) have admittedly made such a task exceptionally difficult.
But it was also fueled by a statement that Biden issued Friday in which he said, “Action on climate change and clean energy remains more urgent than ever. So let me be clear: if the Senate will not move to tackle the climate crisis and strengthen our domestic clean energy industry, I will take strong executive action to meet this moment.”
Biden to make more executive actions on climate change
Fast-forward to Wednesday and President Biden did indeed travel to Somerset, Massachusetts, specifically to a place known as Brayton Point that used to feature an old coal-fired power plant that has since been converted to manufacture undersea cables used to link offshore windmill turbines to the onshore power grid, according to a White House “fact sheet.”
That release indicated a few imminent executive orders from the president that are intended to help Americans better deal with excessive heat as well as expand the offshore wind industry.
Those actions will provide funding to help communities prepare for heat waves and other climate-related events, provide air conditioning units or “community cooling centers” to low-income Americans, and also open up vast swathes of the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Coast for the development of offshore windmill farms for energy production, according to a background press call with an unnamed senior official.
Declaration not yet made
As for the supposed climate emergency declaration that wasn’t actually made, National Climate Adviser Gina McCarthy, during a press gaggle on Air Force One ahead of the president’s speech in Massachusetts, addressed a few questions about such a declaration from reporters.
“I think that it was just a decision that we need to be thoughtful about this, and we want to outline actions, not just declare things,” McCarthy said when asked why the declaration wouldn’t be made yet. When asked about the “pros and cons” of an eventual declaration, she said, “I think the President is making it very clear today that climate change is an emergency. And he’s making very clear today that while Congress didn’t move forward, that just is driving him to move forward with much clearer plans and much larger and more accelerated commitments.”
With regard to whether such a declaration would be “executive overreach,” Biden’s climate czar replied, “I think the considerations are just that the President wants to make sure that we’re doing this right, that we’re laying it out, and that we have the time we need to get this work done. That’s all.” McCarthy declined to provide any further specifics on the matter, however, and joked that she was “not a lawyer” when pressed for more details.