Biden says he ‘practically’ declared climate emergency

By Robin Bravender | 08/09/2023 01:31 PM EDT

The president hasn’t formally declared a national climate emergency, despite pressure from some advocates who want him to use every power available to him.

President Joe Biden talks with Ed Keable, superintendent of the Grand Canyon National Park.

President Joe Biden talks Tuesday with Ed Keable, superintendent of the Grand Canyon National Park, in Grand Canyon Village, Ariz. Alex Brandon/AP Photo

President Joe Biden, facing pressure from his left to declare a national climate emergency, said Tuesday that “practically speaking,” he has already done so.

Asked about whether he planned to declare a national climate emergency, Biden told the Weather Channel, “We’ve already done that.” He pointed to his administration’s efforts to conserve land, his move to rejoin the Paris climate accord and the enactment of a massive climate law last year.

“Practically speaking, yes,” Biden added when pressed on whether he had already declared a climate emergency.


The president has not formally declared a national climate emergency, a move that some environmental advocates are pushing for because it would allow the president to unlock additional executive authorities.

Proponents of the move say Biden could use national emergency and defense laws to funnel federal investments toward renewable energy, halt new fossil fuel leases and prod manufacturers to increase supplies of renewable energy technologies.

They responded with skepticism to his statement Tuesday.

“Biden has, in fact, failed to declare a climate emergency under the National Emergencies Act, failed to harness his executive powers, and failed to take lifesaving action to end fossil fuels,” Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute. “But the president can still become the leader we need by declaring a climate emergency for real.”

The White House countered that the spirit of the president’s comments was accurate.

“The President was crystal clear: he has treated climate change as an emergency — the existential threat of our time — since day one,” White House spokesperson Angelo Fernández Hernández said Wednesday in an email.

“That’s why he signed into law the most ambitious climate bill in history, conserved more land than any President in generations, rejoined the Paris Agreement, attracted $240 billion in private sector investment in clean energy, and used his emergency authorities to invoke the Defense Production Act to supercharge domestic clean energy manufacturing,” Fernández Hernández added.

An emergency declaration could also come with complications, and some Biden allies don’t think it’s the best way to tackle climate change.

Biden called climate change “the existential threat to humanity” in his interview with the Weather Channel. He also said he wants to limit domestic oil drilling but was hamstrung by legal limitations.

“I want to stop all drilling on the East Coast and on the West Coast and on the Gulf,” he said during the interview, which took place at the Grand Canyon. “But I lost in court. But we’re still pushing very hard.”

Biden takes climate message on the road

Biden’s stop in Arizona on Tuesday came as he promotes his climate and economic agenda in the Southwest this week and celebrates the anniversaries of massive climate and manufacturing laws.

The president is heading Wednesday to the groundbreaking of the Arcosa wind towering manufacturing facility outside Albuquerque, N.M. — the site of a shuttered Solo Cup Co. plant — where he’ll tout his economic agenda and celebrate the anniversaries of the passage of a massive climate law and a law aimed at spurring domestic semiconductor manufacturing.

Biden signed the manufacturing law — known as the CHIPS and Science Act — into law one year ago, on Aug. 9, 2022. He signed the climate law, dubbed the Inflation Reduction Act, a week later on Aug. 16. The White House has announced plans to host a celebration next week on the climate law’s birthday.

The Biden administration has struggled to sell the public on the benefits of its climate investments, according to a new poll released this week by The Washington Post and the University of Maryland.

Meanwhile, former President Donald Trump, who’s running to unseat Biden in 2024, was in New Hampshire on Tuesday vowing to repeal parts of the Inflation Reduction Act. Former Vice President Mike Pence’s 2024 campaign released an energy plan criticizing Biden’s administration for “working to limit oil, coal, and gas production” while it “subsidizes green energy at the expense of taxpayers” (see related story).

Top White House officials said Biden is the “best messenger” to market his climate and economic policies to the public, and he’s holding a series of public events in the Southwest this week that kicked off in Arizona on Tuesday and will continue in Utah on Thursday.

The Biden administration is also promoting its executive actions to combat climate change and respond to the extreme heat that’s plagued the Southwest and other parts of the country this summer.

The Department of Health and Human Services and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Wednesday announced a new national dashboard to track heat-related illness.

CHIPS and Science Act’s 1st birthday

The White House on Wednesday highlighted the domestic semiconductor investments made since last year’s enactment of the CHIPS and Science Act. The law invests nearly $53 billion to boost domestic semiconductor manufacturing and creates a 25 percent tax credit for capital investments in semiconductor manufacturing.

“In the year since I signed this legislation into law, companies have announced over $166 billion to bring semiconductor manufacturing back to the United States,” Biden said in a statement. “These investments are creating jobs and opportunities in communities across the country — from Ohio to Arizona, Texas and New York.”

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), a chief architect of that law, which passed with bipartisan support, praised the investments Wednesday but said that the nation is “facing a shortage of skilled workers to meet this demand.” She urged investments in education, apprenticeship and training programs.

The United States currently only produces about 10 percent of the global supply of semiconductors, according to the White House. Those products are used in everything from cellphones to automobiles to defense systems, and a shortage sparked by the Covid-19 pandemic prompted a push for increased domestic production.

The White House is touting renewable energy and semiconductor investments in New Mexico ahead of Biden’s speech Wednesday.

He’ll speak at a wind facility operated by Dallas-based firm Arcosa Inc., which announced earlier this year that it would open a plant in Belen, N.M., to produce $750 million worth of wind towers slated for delivery between 2024 and 2028.

“The outlook for our wind business remains favorable, reflecting rising demand for access to clean energy,” company President and CEO Antonio Carrillo said in a March statement. “Since the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, we have received wind tower orders in excess of $1.1 billion.”

Arcosa’s New Mexico expansion will create 250 new jobs, the White House announced. The facility previously produced Solo Cups — popular at picnics and college parties — before that company ceased its operations there in 2008. The location was then home to a plant that closed in 2020.

The groundbreaking marks the site’s transformation into a clean energy manufacturing factory, the White House said, showcasing the Biden administration’s goal of boosting manufacturing while advancing its efforts to curb emissions.