WASHINGTON — President Biden is set during this week’s Earth Day summit to reestablish the U.S. as a global player in the fight to stop climate change, even as Republicans are once again claiming that such efforts will harm American industry and slash jobs.
Forty world leaders, including China’s President Xi Jinping, will participate in the Leaders Summit on Climate, a virtual event hosted by Biden on April 22 and 23. The event, focused on international efforts to deal with climate change, brings together 17 countries responsible for 80 percent of all global emissions.
The event will take place over two mornings, with the bulk of Thursday’s agenda focused on how those nations plan to mitigate their emissions and contributions to global warming.
Biden is also expected to announce on Thursday the White House’s updated carbon emissions reduction target, with the hope of encouraging participating nations to follow suit. Scientists and climate experts have pressured the Biden administration to set a target to cut 50 percent of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, double the U.S.’s previous commitments.
Senior administration officials would not confirm any figure on a briefing call with reporters Wednesday morning, but the Washington Post reported that Biden would in fact pledge the 50 percent greenhouse gas reduction.
The White House is also expected to release a climate-change-related executive order that instructs the Office of Management and Budget to measure and report climate risks facing individual federal agencies, among other directives, in the lead-up to the summit, Politico reported.
According to the White House, Biden will affirm that large investments in mitigating climate change — through a reduction in fossil fuels and by curbing carbon emissions — would not jeopardize American jobs. In fact, the administration maintains that one key tenet of the summit is to stress “the economic benefits of climate action, with a strong emphasis on job creation.”
Republicans on Capitol Hill have historically criticized the Democrats’ climate policy agenda as detrimental to American industry. In 2013, the GOP attempted to block then-President Barack Obama’s climate policy by stressing the impact on energy prices and the economy rather than addressing the scientific concerns.
“The costs of the regulations are real. And the benefits are unknown,” said top-ranking Senate Republican John Barrasso of Wyoming at the time.
Republicans today pose similar concerns. After Biden signed a slew of climate-related executive actions shortly after his inauguration that eliminated subsidies for fossil fuels and paused new leases for oil and gas on federal lands, members of the GOP slammed him as anti-economic growth. Rep. August Pfluger, R-Texas, called Biden’s orders a “full-out assault on the oil and gas industry,” while GOP whip Steve Scalise, R-La., said they were “beyond destructive.”
Democrats insist that job creation and mitigation measures are not mutually exclusive, and White House climate adviser Gina McCarthy told reporters during a press briefing in January that the administration is committed to erasing the stigma that tackling the climate crisis means economic instability.
“Because as President Biden has often told us, when he thinks of climate change, his first thought is about jobs,” McCarthy said. “And this is about making that happen in the most creative and significant way that the federal government can move forward.”
Democrats’ climate agenda faces a renewed battle in Congress, as progressives Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., on Tuesday reintroduced the controversial Green New Deal proposal in advance of Earth Day.
In the early stages of his bid for the White House, Biden distanced himself from the progressive agenda, saying the Green New Deal was “not my plan” and something he did not endorse. Later, his campaign called the proposal a “critical framework” for Biden’s own climate plan.
The White House has yet to comment directly on the reintroduced Green New Deal.
Ocasio-Cortez called the Republican outcry over potential job losses a “false notion” during her introductory remarks Tuesday, stressing the promise of thousands of green-energy-sector union jobs.
“For so long, our movement toward a sustainable future has been divided with really just this false notion that we have to choose between our planet and our economy,” said Ocasio-Cortez, “and we decided to come together in sweeping legislation that not only rejects that notion but creates a plan for 20 million union jobs in the United States of America to rebuild our infrastructure, to restore public housing.”
Barrasso, joined by a group of other GOP lawmakers, slammed the reintroduced proposal as the “Green New Disaster” in a press conference later that afternoon.
“We’ve seen it before,” Barrasso said. “They’re doing this right as the economy is recovering from the pandemic. And if you’re somebody who pays taxes, heats your home or drives a car, you’re going to end up paying more under the Green New Deal introduced today.”
The Green New Deal could end up being a distraction for the president, who is hoping to garner at least some Republican support to pass his hefty infrastructure bill alongside the incoming family care package. The White House also has a wish list of gun control and policing reforms currently stuck in partisan gridlock.
It’s unclear, however, if the White House can persuade Republicans to make major concessions on climate too, though it appears determined to try.
“We kind of think it’s just right,” chief of staff Ron Klain said in an interview with Politico regarding upcoming infrastructure negotiations. “But we’re happy to have a conversation with people, less about the price tag, more about what are the elements that should be in the plan that people think are missing.”
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