Washington traffic jam jeopardizes US Paris climate goals

The US effort to cut emissions in line with targets set by the Paris climate accord is under threat after Democratic Senator Joe Manchin torpedoed ambitious new legislation on Capitol Hill, experts say.

While the country has pledged to cut emissions 50-52% below 2005 levels by 2030, recent research from the Rhodium Group shows that without further policy action, the US is on the right track. for a reduction of only 24 to 35%.

The refusal of Manchin, the centrist Democratic senator from coal-producing West Virginia, to back nearly $300 billion in clean energy tax incentives under a landmark bill has dealt a blow to US efforts to deliver on their promise, leaving President Joe Biden pledging to take executive action.

Ben King, associate director of Rhodium’s energy and climate practice, said it was “extremely difficult” for the administration to deliver on its commitments.

“Losing legislative action on the Hill is a big step backwards, there’s no denying that,” he said.

Rhodium’s analysis of the trajectory includes the effect of climate measures passed as part of the infrastructure bill earlier this year and new federal rules on fuel economy standards for cars.

Alden Meyer of climate advocacy group E3 said that while states, cities, businesses and investors are expanding their efforts “to get as close as possible to the US commitments made in Paris. . . it will not be enough to close the gap and reach the United States 2030 [Paris target]”.

The Paris Climate Agreement is a 2015 pact in which 189 countries agreed to limit global warming to less than 2°C, preferably around 1.5°C.

Failure to meet that commitment would hurt America’s ability to persuade other countries to reduce their own emissions, Meyer said. “The United States is trying to pressure India, China and a number of other countries to raise their ambition for 2030 – that’s a pretty big blow to their influence,” he said. he declares.

Biden and Democrats are considering more executive action and regulatory action as they try to close the shortfall.

Jeff Merkley, the Democratic senator from Oregon, called on Biden to declare a national emergency and redirect spending to build renewable energy systems while using the Defense Production Act to funnel more money into renewable energy projects.

“For too long we have waited for one legislative package to save us and one legislator to determine our fate,” Merkley said.

The president has previously invoked the Korean War-era Defense Production Act to boost the domestic supply of crucial minerals for electric vehicles and high-capacity batteries, and to boost production of heat pumps. , electrical network components, insulation and solar panels.

Under the DPA, an administration can compel companies to prioritize government contracts over private ones, for example, or provide loans and grants to stimulate manufacturing.

However, the money available from the DPA still needs congressional authorization and amounts to far less than would have been made available by the dead bill.

“The problem with this bill is that it injected tens of billions of dollars into clean energy – instead of using regulations, it spurred investment,” said Paul Bledsoe, former White House climate adviser under Bill Clinton. “This is something that is very difficult to replicate through regulations and decrees.”

The failure to pass legislation also increases pressure on the regulatory power of the EPA, which was crippled by the Supreme Court earlier this month in a ruling that limited the nation’s top environmental regulator’s ability to limit emissions. greenhouse gases from power plants.

Climate advocates are nonetheless pushing the EPA to take the toughest steps to regulate emissions from power plants and vehicles, though lawyers said the Supreme Court ruling creates new uncertainty about what the EPA can accomplish without facing further legal challenges.

Some climate advocates are calling on the administration to end the possibility of new oil and gas leases.

Earlier this month, the White House signaled the possibility of selling new oil leases in offshore waters despite Biden’s campaign pledge to stop drilling for fuels on federally owned territory.

His administration has outlined options for selling leases to oil producers, including up to 10 auctions for rights in the Gulf of Mexico and another potential auction round off Alaska.

Blocking new leases in those areas would be a “serious statement from the president,” said Zach Friedman, director of federal policy at Ceres, a group representing U.S. businesses and investors that have pushed for clean energy regulation. .

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest report on how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions found that without immediate action, the world was on track for a 3, 2°C by the end of the century. The final report compiled by 278 scientists and 195 countries is the latest in a series of three over the past year.

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