U.S. Senate Democrats urge Biden to declare climate emergency

Two U.S. Senate Democrats urged President Joe Biden on
Monday to declare a climate emergency and use the Defense Production Act to
ramp up production of a wide range of renewable energy products and systems
including solar panels.

Senators Sheldon Whitehouse and Jeff Merkley, speaking days
after an effort to advance climate legislation failed in the Senate, also
called on Biden to use the White House “bully pulpit” to draw
attention to climate-related crises in the United States.

“It is time for the Biden administration to pivot to a
very aggressive climate strategy,” Merkley said.

Biden said last week that he would take unspecified steps to
reduce climate emissions after Democratic Senator Joe Manchin withdrew support
for climate legislation that Democrats had hoped to pass before Congress leaves
Washington for its August recess. In the evenly divided Senate, Manchin’s
support was critical for passage of the legislation, which lacked any
Republican backing.

Manchin and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer had been
in talks about $300 billion in tax credits for industries including solar and
wind power, carbon capture from power plants, and nuclear power, which
generates virtually emissions-free electricity.

Whitehouse said he spoke to the White House about the need
to move forward with aggressive executive action, but shared no details.
“I’ve talked to the White House about going on offense and being
aggressive and doing all the things that it is within the executive powers to
do that have not so far been done,” he said.

Whitehouse said the conversation tracked his public call for
initiatives ranging from tighter carbon regulations for vehicles and power
plants to carbon border tariffs and potential federal litigation against the fossil
fuel industry. It was not clear, however, how far the White House could go,
after the Supreme Court last month effectively restricted the Environmental
Protection Agency from issuing emissions rules involving matters of major
“economic and political significance.”