What it would mean for Biden to declare a national ‘climate emergency’ – ‘Triggers ability for him to deploy around 130 different powers’
By BEN ADLER
In the wake of Sen. Joe Manchin’s announcement that he won’t vote for a bill addressing climate change unless inflation slows next month, climate leaders are calling for President Biden to declare climate change a national emergency — and it appears that the White House is seriously considering the move.
A formal declaration would open up new possibilities for unilateral action by the executive branch to combat climate change.
U.S. presidents have declared 60 national emergencies since 1976, according to the think tank Demos. Historically, those have typically been for acute crises, such as specific natural disasters, rather than a long-term predicament like climate change.
In an era of increased partisan polarization and congressional gridlock, however, pushing the boundaries of executive action is becoming more common.
Some environmental advocacy organizations have been urging Biden to declare climate change a national emergency ever since he won the presidency.
“If he declares a national emergency, it triggers the ability for him to deploy around 130 different powers,” Jean Su, energy justice program director and senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, said. “One of the most useful for climate is the reinstatement of the crude oil export ban.” Stopping the export of crude oil would reduce emissions by the equivalent of shutting 42 coal plants, according to the Center for Biological Diversity’s calculations, because it would reduce domestic oil production.
“Shutting that off would actually reduce the incentive for companies from fracking in the Permian Basin” in Texas and New Mexico, Su said. With an emergency declaration, Biden could even phase out all exports and imports of fossil fuels entirely, she said.
Similarly, while the president already has the authority to stop selling new leases for offshore drilling, an emergency declaration would allow him to go further and stop issuing permits for offshore oil and gas wells under already existing leases and halt all drilling immediately.
Su also argues that an emergency declaration would allow the White House to do more under the Defense Production Act (DPA) than it would under that law alone, such as marshaling funding under the DPA to deploy clean energy — for example, rooftop solar installations on low-income housing.
“While a climate declaration is important in terms of media attention and galvanizing the climate movement, it does not have significant impacts on carbon pollution,” said one climate expert, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid upsetting colleagues. “It is a symbolic act more than a substantive one.”