Pondering Biden’s Plan(et) B

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Plan A for the White House is underway at the United Nations climate summit in Glasgow with a major new emissions-cutting law passed by Congress. Plan B is more complicated.

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big picture: It is anyone’s guess whether the Democrats’ reconciliation plan will pass before the summit begins at the end of the month, and if so, whether the huge climate investment will be sustained.

  • The same goes for the bipartisan infrastructure plan, which has smaller, but still important, climate measures.

why it matters: As the window for keeping warming within the goals of the Paris Agreement narrows increasingly, it is harder to get other countries on board with aggressive efforts if President Biden’s legislative agenda is stuck.


What are we watching: What is Plan B?

  • A White House aide said there are “many avenues to meet our emissions targets and targets,” adding the agenda “does not depend on reconciliation or an infrastructure package.”
  • Biden’s pledge under the Paris Agreement is to cut US emissions by 50%-52% by 2030 below 2005 levels.

Here’s What the White House Is Like, if necessary, would possibly argue that Congress has teeth of its pledge without:

  • Regulations: The EPA recently rolled out regulations to phase out the use of potent greenhouse gases called hydrofluorocarbons. And many other regulations surrounding vehicle emissions, methane, appliances and more.
  • Width: Beyond binding rules, Biden’s executives have launched a series of events this year. Think offshore wind development and the new target and approval to revive the Energy Department’s loan guarantee program, to name just two.
  • Persuasion: The administration is pushing the private sector and other countries with domestic and global emissions impacts on several fronts, such as banks’ sustainable lending practices. For example, it helped increase electricity sales and, per bloomberg, is preparing a new heavy industry alliance.
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Intrigue: We are monitoring new steps ahead of the summit. A strategy document for meeting the 2030 target is expected sometime this year. A congressional agreement is also likely during the two-week summit.

  • And who knows, maybe a wild card is on the way. Some legislators and activists want the White House to declare a climate “emergency” that would free up new federal powers.

reality check: Executive moves are not a substitute for the scope of measures in Democrats’ plans, such as hundreds of billions in new clean power and EV incentives and major new finance for utilities to get greener.

Bottom-line: Tufts University climatologist Rachel Kayte tells the New York Times That if the bills don’t pass, the US will join the Glasgow summit with “good words” but “nothing more.”

  • Kayte, dean of the Fletcher School and an advisor to the United Nations, says nothing of the summit’s outcome when the law flopped: “The whole world is watching.”


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