Biden urges climate action: ‘We don’t have much more than 10 years’

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ARVADA, Colorado — President Biden warned on Tuesday that the United States had only a decade left to cope with a global climate crisis, and used his second day to tour a wildfire-ravaged west to try to engage the public and congressional Democrats. to support measures his government hopes to reduce the burning of fossil fuels.

mr. Biden’s stops in Colorado this week; Boise, Idaho; and Long Beach and the Sacramento area of ​​California was more than an opportunity to draw attention to the severe destruction of wildfires and other natural disasters exacerbated by climate change. The visits were one last chance to sell the importance of measures aimed at mitigating climate change, some of which appear to be increasingly compromised in its spending packages.

“A drought or a fire sees no property boundary,” Mr Biden said during remarks at a federal renewable energy lab. It doesn’t matter which party you belong to. Disasters don’t stop. That is the nature of the climate threat. But we know what to do. We just have to muster the courage and creativity to do it.”

Underlining the urgency, Mr Biden added, “We don’t have much more than 10 years.”

Democratic leaders drafting a $3.5 trillion spending bill are struggling to match the urgency of Biden’s pleas with pushing back energy lobbyists and some key Democrats, who want a far less expansive effort than what Biden has in mind.

On Monday, during a visit to California’s Office of Emergency Services in the Sacramento region, Mr. Biden appeared to acknowledge that. Before being briefed on the damage from the wildfires, he reminded dozens of aid workers in the conference room that he could not include all of his proposed investments in the fight against climate change in a bipartisan agreement he reached this summer on infrastructure. He said he was aiming to include them in the more sweeping $3.5 trillion package, but acknowledged it would not be able to live up to his ambitions.

“Whether that will continue or not, I don’t know how much exactly. But we’re going to make sure it gets passed,” Mr Biden said.

Tax advisers in the House of Representatives have already made a kind of concession to the climate. A bill released earlier this week does away with any tax on carbon emissions, even though such revenue could help pay for the massive package Democrats plan to pass along party lines and without Republican support. Many Senate Democrats have pushed for the inclusion of a direct tax on emissions or an indirect tax, such as a tariff on goods imported from high-emission countries, such as China. But the party is not aligned, and given the meager majorities in the House and Senate, such a plan would likely struggle to get the 50 votes needed in the Senate.

Concerns at the center about the size and scope of some proposed tax increases could force party leaders to remove incentives to use low-carbon energy in the plan. So are influential Democrats who have opposed the party’s past climate legislation, such as West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin III.

Mr. Manchin, a coal moderate, is the committee chair charged with drafting the Senate version of the bill’s biggest effort to reduce emissions: a carrot-and-stick approach to get electric utilities to get more power from low-carbon sources in the next decade.

“The transition is underway,” Mr Manchin said, speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. “Now they want to pay companies to do what they already do. It makes no sense to me to take billions of dollars and pay utilities for what they’re going to do when the market changes.”

He declined to comment further on Tuesday, telling reporters that he preferred to negotiate privately. Senate Democrats used a weekly caucus lunch to provide an update on efforts to cobble together pieces of legislation over the annual summer break, though it was unclear how quickly they would reconcile differences within and between the two chambers. .

Biden used his Western swing to highlight what his aides hope will be a call to climate action for those who have not committed to a more aggressive plan. During the trip, Mr. Biden learned from emergency officials and governors — including those at odds with the government over the pandemic and other issues — about the urgent need to deal with natural disasters. Mr. Biden told California aid workers that he had recently met with Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, about emergency relief.

“Some of my more conservative…” said Mr. Biden before stopping and resuming, “some of my less-believing friends in this idea of ​​global warming are suddenly having an altar call.”

“They see the Lord,” Mr. Biden said.

Later, when Mr. Biden received his fire briefing from officials at the Office of Emergency Services, a woman was heard presenting him with a map of wildfires, saying, “That’s why this is so important.”

On Tuesday, Mr. Biden watched a demonstration of wind turbines at the Flatirons Campus of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Arvada, Colorado, then talked about the damage from hurricanes and wildfires he’d seen while traveling across the United States this month. He called for tax cuts to accelerate the deployment of solar and electric vehicles and for the creation of a civil climate corps to preserve public lands and make them more resilient to climate change.

Mr Biden’s economics team has not made it clear whether the president would embrace an emissions tax as part of the package. He declined to vote in favor of a Republican proposal to raise the federal gasoline tax to help pay for infrastructure, citing his pledge not to raise income taxes for anyone earning less than $400,000. But his administration has not objected to a tax hike on cigarettes, which the House has included in its tax plan, which would disproportionately affect lower income earners.

Government officials have also not said how far a final agreement on emissions reductions must go before Mr Biden can accept it. When asked by a reporter in Arvada whether he would sign the $3.5 trillion spending package if it includes leaner measures to tackle climate change, Mr Biden clenched his fist. “I’m up for more climate action,” he said.

Karine Jean-Pierre, the chief deputy press secretary, told reporters on Air Force One that Mr. Biden is strongly committed to the climate components of the bill. But, she said, “Biden’s climate agenda doesn’t just depend on reconciliation or just an infrastructure package.”

“We look to every sector of the economy for opportunities to create clean energy jobs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” she said, “especially in the decisive — in this decisive decade.”

Emily Cochrane reporting contributed.

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