Aug 10, 2023 - Energy & Environment

Making sense of Biden's "emergency" statement on climate change

Illustration of a glowing siren on top of a microphone.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

President Biden offered an inadvertent window into how far the White House likely will and won't go with climate policy.

Catch up fast: When asked by The Weather Channel in an interview that aired Wednesday if he would declare a "national emergency" on climate, Biden said he'd "already done that."

  • He cited his work on conservation, re-joining Paris, and the Democrats' big climate law that's steering unprecedented funding into low-carbon projects.
  • Biden then said "practically speaking, yes," an emergency had been declared.

Yes, but: That's very different than the formal designation that some activists who oppose pipelines and other projects — like the Sunrise Movement — have long sought, and called for again Wednesday.

  • They want to unlock executive powers that would be used for steps like thwarting fossil fuel exports and development.

Quick take: The hullabaloo is a reminder of the wider White House approach.

  • It's far more selective with oil and gas leasing than the industry and Republicans want. Biden also said the courts are limiting his ability to restrict development.
  • Still, the administration has pushed the industry for more near-term production in recent years.
  • And White House officials clearly see geo-strategic benefits to U.S. resources — notably LNG exports that have helped Europe move away from Russian gas.

What they're saying: "The President was crystal clear: he has treated climate change as an emergency — the existential threat of our time — since day one," the White House said in a statement.

  • It also noted that Biden has previously used "emergency authorities" by invoking the Defense Production Act to try and boost low-carbon equipment manufacturing.

Go deeper: E&E News has a nice look at Biden's comments and wider initiatives.

Go deeper