US President Joe Biden declared climate change an emergency on Wednesday, but stopped short of issuing a formal declaration, instead releasing a small package of executive steps and vowing more vigorous efforts.

Biden made the remarks during a visit to Massachusetts, as Europe and the United States face an unprecedented heat wave. This week, heat advisories will be issued to 100 million Americans from New York City to Las Vegas.

“Climate change is literally an existential threat to our nation and to the world,” Biden said. “This is an emergency, an emergency, and I will look at it that way.”

New money for cooling centers was announced, as well as a drive for new off-shore wind projects in the oil-rich Gulf of Mexico.

Those efforts, however, fall short of the demands of Democratic legislators and environmental activists who want Biden to officially declare a climate emergency, allowing the Defense Production Act to be used to scale up production of a broad variety of renewable energy goods and systems.

Biden told reporters that he will determine whether to make such a statement soon.

“I’m running the traps on the … authority I have,” he said as he drove home from Massachusetts. “I’ll make that decision soon.”

Biden is under growing pressure after conservative Democratic Senator Joe Manchin said last week that he was not prepared to back vital climate legislation in Congress, a major defeat in the Senate’s equally split chamber.

Biden told reporters on Wednesday that he hasn’t talked with Manchin since.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will provide $2.3 billion in funding to states to help them build cooling centers to deal with extreme heat and other effects of climate change, according to the White House, which also announced the largest-ever investment in the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities Program.

New cash might be used to improve flood control, strengthen utilities, remodel buildings, and assist low-income households with heating and cooling bills.

In addition, Biden announced fresh funding for the local offshore wind sector. According to the White House, the government has identified 700,000 acres in the Gulf of Mexico for potential offshore wind energy development. 

Biden spoke from a former coal-fired power station that is now a manufacturing center for underwater cables for the state’s offshore wind sector.

More is on the way, according to Biden.

“In the coming days, my administration will announce the executive actions we have developed to combat this emergency,” Biden stated.

Senator Jeff Merkley and eight other Democrats wrote to Biden on Wednesday, asking him to declare a climate emergency and take forceful executive steps to restrict emissions from fossil fuels generated on public lands and seas, as well as to increase the use of electric cars.

In his presidential campaign, Biden vowed severe action on climate change, and it remains a top issue for some voters ahead of the Nov. 8 midterm elections for control of Congress. In international climate talks, President Obama also vowed to decrease climate emissions by half by 2030 and achieve 100 percent clean power by 2035.

However, many key setbacks have delayed that climate agenda, including Congress’ failure to include critical climate and renewable energy policies in a federal budget bill, record-high gasoline prices, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has disrupted global energy markets.

A recent Supreme Court decision restricting the federal government’s ability to adopt broad restrictions to curb carbon emissions from power plants is also harming Biden’s climate objectives.

When asked whether Biden has determined that there are no longer any options for a climate measure, a senior White House official told reporters that other individuals may answer that question, implying that much rests on Manchin.

“Our focus is on what we can do,” the official said.

Source: Reuters

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