Sep 3, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Democrats running out of time for climate change action

Illustration of a clock with disappearing earth on its face

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Democrats' Beltway drama over their $3.5 trillion spending package could influence the outcomes at a critical United Nations climate summit this fall.

Driving the news: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is calling for a "pause" in senior Democrats' plan to move a $3.5 trillion package that would include major clean energy and climate measures.

  • His move jeopardizes leadership hopes of passing the bill in October — and could spell trouble for its survival — because Senate Democrats need all their members to back the package or it dies.

Why it matters: The reconciliation plan is slated to contain measures vital to meeting President Biden's pledge under the Paris Agreement to slash U.S. greenhouse emissions in half by 2030 relative to 2005 levels.

The intrigue: Watch the clock.

  • The U.N. conference opens Oct. 31. If the U.S. walks in with big new policies in hand, that could help spur new steps by other nations.
  • If the bill is floundering, gutted, or dead, the credibility of President Biden's team will be wounded.

The big picture: The Paris Agreement calls for limiting global temperature rise to well below 2°C above preindustrial levels — and hopefully 1.5°C — to prevent some of the worst effects of climate change.

What they're saying: Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer are pointing to Hurricane Ida as they push the bipartisan infrastructure package — which has new resilience and grid overhaul measures — and the Democrats-only plan.

Go deeper