Biden heads to COP26 with a framework for a huge climate investment in hand

President Joe Biden is addressing a United Nations climate conference on Monday prompted by a new legislative framework that, if enacted, would be the largest action ever taken by the United States to address climate change.

The $ 555 billion plan for climate spending is the centerpiece of a broad domestic policy package that Biden and Congressional Democrats unveiled Thursday, hours before the president traveled to Europe for another summit before the meeting on the weather in Glasgow, Scotland.

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

While it is not certain that it will pass 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 enacted, it would put the United States on track to meet Biden’s goal of cutting carbon pollution in half by 2030.

“It is a real sign to the world that America is back and demonstrating its 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, as well as investments to boost nuclear power, dramatically increase the number of electric vehicles, and stimulate the production of batteries and other advanced materials. .

The plan would also spend at least $ 100 billion to address extreme weather such as wildfires, hurricanes and droughts, address “legacy pollution” in the worst affected areas, and establish a Civilian Climate Corps, a New Deal-style program to create thousands of jobs. trails, restoring streams and helping prevent catastrophic wildfires.

But a proposal to reward power companies that switch from fossil fuels to clean energy and penalize those that don’t was scrapped after opposition from coal state senator Joe Manchin, DW.Va. And the fate of a proposed tariff on methane leaks during oil and gas production was also uncertain, although the Liberal Democrats were hopeful that it would be included.

A recent analysis by Rhodium Group, an independent research firm, found that passage of a bipartisan infrastructure bill and the broader package of climate and domestic policy, combined with regulations from key federal agencies and state actions, could reduce US greenhouse gas emissions by 45%. 51% below 2005 levels in 2030.

“In fact, we believe that the US can still put the goal within reach, but it is going to require a lot of sustained follow-up action by the executive branch and states after Congress is done to achieve the rest. off the road, “he said. John Larsen, an energy systems expert and co-author of the study.

The new framework strengthens Biden’s hand as the climate summit begins. #USPoli # COP26

He called Biden’s target, set at a virtual meeting on climate at the White House in April, “ambitious,” but said it’s “better to aim high and try your best when science tells you that’s literally what you want. is required”.

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

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

Biden is leaning towards the climate more than any previous president, and it appears he is prepared to continue to make this a top priority throughout his first term, which would be the first time an American president has done something like this. ” said Larsen, who worked at the Department of Energy during Barack Obama’s presidency. He cited Biden’s moves to rejoin the Paris agreement, eliminate the Keystone XL pipeline and stop the leasing of oil and gas on federal land, among other actions.

Even without signed legislation, Biden’s framework shows America’s leadership on climate, experts said. The United States can now say to China and other big polluters: “We set an ambitious target. We have taken the first significant steps toward reaching that target. What are you going to do?” Larsen said.

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

“I think if the United States is not able, before the end of (the climate summit), to show that it has some policies in place, there is no way around it, credibility will suffer,” said Nat Keohane. , president of the independent Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.

While not adopting legislation wouldn’t be fatal if Congress passes a bill in late November or December, time is running out, Keohane said. “This is the time to get everything that can be accomplished through Congress now,” he said, “because everything else will have to be done by regulation” that could be undone by a future Republican president.

Even as he moves to curb carbon emissions, Biden feels pressure from Republicans who unanimously oppose his climate and energy proposals and blame him for a sharp rise in energy prices, including gasoline and heating supplies. for home.

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

Energy prices have risen in recent months as the economy reopens following the COVID-19 shutdowns. Crude oil prices have risen more than 60% this year amid strong demand and tangled supply chains, prompting Biden to pressure Saudi Arabia and other exporters to increase oil production following cuts during the pandemic.

National security adviser Jake Sullivan said there was no contradiction between Biden’s climate goals and the request for more imported oil.

“This is not a light switch. We are not ruling out all fossil fuel use in our economy overnight, ” Sullivan told reporters on Air Force One as he headed to Europe with the president. “We still need those fossil fuels during the transition period to make sure our economy is working, jobs are being created, working families have their homes heated at night, etc.”

Denouncing what he called a “certain ‘trapped’ quality” to questions about oil imports, Sullivan said the administration must consider both the short and long term. “We have to pay immediate attention to the energy supply today and work towards a net zero future,” he said.

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