WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden will travel to Massachusetts on Wednesday to promote his efforts to combat climate change but will stop short of issuing an emergency declaration that would unlock federal resources to deal with the issue, according to a person familiar with the president’s plans.
Biden has been under pressure to issue an emergency declaration after Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., pulled out of negotiations over climate legislation. During his visit to Somerset, Mass., Biden could announce other steps on climate change but the White House has not released details.
The president has been trying to signal to Democratic voters that he’s aggressively tackling global warming at a time when some of his supporters have despaired about the lack of progress. He has pledged to push forward on his own in the absence of congressional action.
The person familiar with Biden’s intention to hold off on making an emergency declaration spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the plans publicly. It was not clear whether an emergency declaration remained under consideration for later action.
An emergency declaration could be used as a legal basis to block oil and gas drilling or other fossil fuel projects. However, many of those steps would likely be challenged in court by energy companies or Republican-led states.
The president vowed late last week to take robust executive action on climate after Manchin — who has wielded outsized influence on Biden’s legislative agenda because of Democrats’ razor-thin majority in the Senate — hit the brakes on negotiations over proposals for new environmental programs and higher taxes on the wealthy and corporations.
One of the biggest backers of fossil fuels within the Democratic caucus, Manchin has blamed persistently high inflation for his hesitation to go along with another spending package. His resistance has enraged other congressional Democrats who have ramped up pressure on Biden to act on his own on climate.
The president “needs to go big on climate — starting by declaring a climate emergency so we can take bold action NOW on the disastrous impacts climate chaos has on our health, environment, and economy,” Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., tweeted Tuesday morning.
John Podesta, chair of the board of directors at the Center for American Progress, said environmental leaders met with senior White House officials on Friday to discuss policy ideas.
Some proposals included ramping up regulations on vehicle emissions and power plants. They also want Biden to avoid an expansion in domestic drilling.
“If he’s going to make good on his commitments to do everything he can to bring emissions down, he’s got to pay attention to those critical regulatory issues that are facing him,” Podesta said.
Ben King, an associate director at the Rhodium Group, an independent research firm, said the U.S. is “nowhere close” to meeting the goals set by Biden for reducing emissions.
Biden escalated the country’s emissions reduction target to 50% to 52% below 2005 levels by 2030. Under the current policies in place at the federal and state level, the U.S. is on track to reach a reduction of 24% to 35%, according to the Rhodium Group’s latest analysis.
“Absent meaningful policy action, we’re far off track from meeting the goals that the U.S. is committed to under the Paris accord,” King said, referencing a 2015 global conference on addressing climate change.