Biden kicks off weeklong climate offensive

Source: By Robin Bravender, E&E News • Posted: Tuesday, April 23, 2024

The president heads to a Virginia national park Monday as the White House plans a slew of election-year climate and conservation announcements.

President Joe Biden

The administration has organized a series of events each day this week aimed at drawing attention to President Joe Biden’s environmental policies and promising new actions on climate and conservation. Matt Rourke/AP

President Joe Biden will celebrate Earth Day in a Virginia national park on Monday as his administration kicks off a week packed with climate and conservation announcements.

The administration has organized a series of events each day this week aimed at drawing attention to the president’s environmental policies and promising new actions on climate and conservation. The push comes as Biden and his team attempt to mobilize young voters and climate advocates ahead of the November presidential contest.

“Throughout Earth Week, the Biden-Harris administration will announce additional actions to build a stronger, healthier future for all,” the White House announced.

Biden is set to travel to Virginia’s Prince William Forest Park on Monday to deliver an Earth Day speech. The president will announce $7 billion in grant funding through a program aimed at delivering solar power to households in low-income and disadvantaged communities, the White House announced.

He’s also slated to announce new steps to advance the American Climate Corps, an effort modeled after President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps that aims to put young people to work in clean energy and conservation jobs. The Virginia national park site was developed by the FDR-era conservation corps.

Biden “will visit that site and talk about how the United States, in the face of a climate crisis …” can come together “to unlock economic opportunity, to create pathways to middle-class supporting careers, to save people money and improve their quality of life,” Biden’s climate adviser, Ali Zaidi, told reporters Friday.

It won’t be Biden’s first Earth Day speech surrounded by trees.

The president traveled in 2022 to Seattle’s Seward Park, where he signed an executive order on forest conservation. “We’re protecting natural wonders and cultural treasures, national monuments,” Biden said at the time. He lamented then that Congress still hadn’t passed a sweeping climate bill that was stalled on Capitol Hill back in April 2022 but was enacted later that year.

Beyond Biden’s speech Monday, the administration has plans for environment-themed events each day this week.

Tuesday “will focus on helping ensure clean water for all communities,” the White House announced. Wednesday will focus on “accelerating America’s clean transportation future.”

The administration plans to make announcements Thursday about rules aimed at cutting pollution from the power sector, and officials will focus on “providing cleaner air and healthier schools for all children” on Friday, the White House said.

‘Cementing a legacy’

The White House is also touting Biden’s conservation agenda on the heels of announcements last week from the Interior Department.

The administration on Friday finalized sweeping drilling restrictions in the western Arctic and rejected a proposed mining road through the Alaska wilderness.

And on Thursday, the Bureau of Land Management announced it finalized a major new public lands rule placing conservation and restoration of public lands on equal footing with energy development and mining.

“Here’s the bottom line: President Biden laid out the most ambitious land and water conservation agenda in American history,” Council on Environmental Quality Chair Brenda Mallory told reporters Friday. “And he is delivering, already cementing a legacy as one of the nation’s strongest conservation presidents.”

The administration will have “more good news to share on the president’s conservation agenda soon, including some announcements on freshwater conservation,” Mallory said.

As the administration kicks off Earth Week, the president’s agenda continues to face stiff opposition from congressional Republicans and calls from the left to do more to tackle climate change.

“It’s impossible to justify this administration’s continued disregard for the American people they claim to represent,” House Natural Resources Chair Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) said in a statement. “Washington D.C. bureaucrats are abusing their power and making sweeping land management decisions while blatantly ignoring the communities most impacted by their policies.”

In a statement released on Earth Day, Westerman said Republicans are leading conservation efforts “with a commitment to conserve our environment and ensuring our public lands and waters remain accessible for all Americans to enjoy.”

Meanwhile, activists with the Sunrise Movement announced a series of protests over the weekend to demand that the Biden administration declare a formal “climate emergency,” a move administration officials have considered previously.

“We’re staring down another summer of floods, fires, hurricanes and extreme heat,” said Sunrise Executive Director Aru Shiney-Ajay. “Biden must declare a climate emergency and use every tool at his disposal to tackle the climate crisis and prepare our communities to weather the storm. If Biden wants to be taken seriously by young people, he needs to deliver on climate change.”