Apr 5, 2022 - Energy & Environment

White House climate adviser: "We can no longer wait" to cut emissions

Ali Zaidi (left) speaks with Axios' Niala Boodhoo (right).

Ali Zaidi (left) speaks with Axios' Niala Boodhoo at the Axios What's Next Summit on April 5. Photo: Joy Asico

White House deputy climate adviser Ali Zaidi said the administration is working to advance new climate technologies at the same time it is working to reduce emissions, from direct air capture to sustainable aviation fuels.

Why it matters: Speaking at Axios’ inaugural What’s Next Summit on Tuesday, Zaidi said that President Biden is trying to meet people where they are, which includes the historic tapping of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to try to lower gas prices.

Zaidi said Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has prompted the White House to act to simultaneously boost oil and gas supplies in order to cut the price at the pump, while also working to crack the code of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from hard to decarbonize sectors, like cement manufacturing.

  • Zaidi said President Biden has not wavered from his climate ambitions. "He's meeting folks where they are, which is feeling the pain of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin's price hike at the gasoline pump, stabilizing that situation, through extraordinary action and leadership," Zaidi said. "And then making sure we're moving as boldly and vigorously in the direction of a clean energy future as we can."

The intrigue: In the wake of Monday's latest report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which found that global greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2025 and be cut almost in half by 2030 in order to meet the Paris Agreement's targets.

  • "So for the longest time, we said ah, you know, steel, cement, aluminum, heavy industry, very hard to decarbonize. Let's talk about that tomorrow. And that moment is now, we can no longer wait," he said.
  • Zaidi said there's virtually nothing that can be done to convince those who reject climate science findings that they're on the wrong side of this issue.
  • "This is not a few scientists, it's not many scientists, it's not most scientists, this is the judgment of the global scientific community," he said.
  • "You don't need a degree in rocket science to go and see our communities being burned to the ground," he said.
  • "You don't need a degree in rocket science to see the sea levels rise and threaten homes and livelihoods. You don't need a degree in rocket science to understand that what we are perceiving hundreds of billions of dollars of damage year over year is on a hockey stick, and it's getting worse if we don't take action in a bold way."

What's next: Zaidi, who works with White House climate adviser Gina McCarthy, faces the reality that the administration's boldest climate plans collapsed in the Senate due to opposition from West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin. It remains to be seen whether a new, less ambitious package of proposals can be passed before the midterm elections.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that Zaidi talked about people who reject climate science findings, but did not single out Republicans.

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