The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Jean Su,

Biden Stops Short of Declaring National Climate Emergency

Takes Limited Executive Actions As 100 Million Americans Under Extreme Heat Alert


President Biden announced a series of executive actions targeting the climate crisis today, and while he described the crisis as "an emergency," he stopped short of the national climate emergency declaration called for by the Center for Biological Diversity and more than 1,200 other groups.

Visiting a shuttered coal plant that's now part of an offshore wind project in Somerset, Massachusetts, Biden announced he would increase Federal Emergency Management Agency funds for community climate resilience. He said his administration will announce additional actions in the coming days.

"The world's burning up from California to Croatia, and right now Biden's fighting fire with the trickle from a garden hose," said Jean Su, Energy Justice program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. "Saying we're in a climate emergency and declaring one under the law are totally different things. Declaring a climate emergency will unleash the full force of Biden's executive powers to combat climate chaos and signal the climate leadership we so desperately need."

Biden's newly announced actions track with part of the Center's executive action plan, which urges FEMA to direct funding toward renewable-energy systems in environmental justice communities. But today's announcement contains none of the urgently needed actions to limit oil, gas and coal production, responsible for 85% of planet-heating pollution.

"With congressional action closed off, bold action from Biden is the only hope for truly lifesaving action to curb the deadly fossil fuels scorching the planet," said Su. "Limited action on renewables without curbing fossil fuels is like tuning up the engine while the car barrels off a cliff."

While the Biden administration can accomplish most necessary actions using ordinary powers under existing laws, emergency authorities unlock Biden's ability to end crude oil exports and halt billions of dollars in U.S. investment in fossil fuel projects abroad.

By acknowledging climate change as a national security threat, Biden can expand use of the Defense Production Act for electric transportation development, including public e-buses, high-speed rail and passenger vehicles. He used the DPA earlier this year for solar manufacturing, insulation and heat pumps, another action that tracked the Center's plan.

Biden and his federal agencies also have extensive ordinary executive powers to limit oil, gas and coal, long the essential missing piece of climate policy.

Biden can direct the Department of the Interior to end all new oil and gas leasing and phase out the production of oil and gas on public lands and waters. He can instruct the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to comply with existing law by ending the use of nationwide permits for fossil fuel project approvals and deny permits for such projects due to their environmental and public harms.

Biden can also direct the Environmental Protection Agency to establish national limits for greenhouse gases at 350 ppm of carbon dioxide under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards program of the Clean Air Act.

The Center for Biological Diversity and more than 1,200 groups in the People vs Fossil Fuels coalition have called on Biden to declare a national climate emergency and take these other actions. In a survey from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication this year, 58% of Americans polled said they support a U.S. president declaring global warming a national emergency if Congress does not act.

At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive.

(520) 623-5252