Congressional Democrats this week redoubled efforts to pull President Biden to the left on his green energy agenda ahead of a two-day global climate-change summit that kicks off Thursday.
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernard Sanders of Vermont and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York announced a massive climate-focused housing package Monday and liberals are following up with new demands for spending and emissions targets along the lines of the Green New Deal.
The legislation is an updated version of a plank of Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal plan, which envisions a costly overhaul to the economy to get the country on a path to net-zero carbon emissions within a decade.
The bill calls for spending up to $172 billion on “green retrofits” that eliminate carbon emissions at public housing projects.
“At this time of unprecedented crisis, we must move forward to boldly address the systemic and existential threats facing us today and that includes combating climate change and making sure that every American has a safe and decent place to live,” Mr. Sanders said.
The potential price tag is well beyond the $40 billion that Mr. Biden included in his $2.3 trillion infrastructure package to go toward retrofitting and fixing public housing.
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Cori Bush, Missouri Democrat, also introduced a new $1 trillion spending proposal designed to fund local efforts to enact tenets of the Green New Deal.
On Tuesday, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and others plan to formally reintroduce the Green New Deal — a proposal that Mr. Biden praised but did not fully embrace on the 2020 campaign trail.
Steve Milloy, a former member of the Trump-Pence EPA transition team, said the left is simply going through the motions with proposals that won’t meaningfully cut carbon emissions worldwide.
“It’s all for show to make Biden look more reasonable,” Mr. Milloy said.
Environmentalist groups demand that Mr. Biden enter the climate summit, which is being held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with a new goal of cutting U.S. carbon emissions by at least 50% below 2005 levels by 2030.
Thirteen of the nation’s leading electricity companies said in a letter this month that they wanted to work with the Biden administration on cutting the industry’s emissions by 80% over the next decade.
Sen. Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat and original sponsor of the Green New Deal in 2019, urged Mr. Biden in a Monday letter to include specific targets for methane emissions as part of the U.S. targets later this week.
“The United States has an opportunity to cement its position as a global leader through robust methane reduction targets and strategies, and can use that leadership to support other countries in making similar pledges,” Mr. Markey said.
Asked about a methane emissions target, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said she would not get ahead of a possible official announcement “or decisions that are still being finalized.”
Congressional Republicans are offering alternative solutions, arguing that Mr. Biden‘s “whole of government” approach to climate change is too far-reaching and that former President Donald Trump was correct to exit the Paris Climate agreement of 2015.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, said the GOP would unveil its own climate change proposal ahead of Thursday’s White House summit.
“Our solutions promote innovation, invest in clean energy infrastructure, and outline initiatives and natural solutions and conservation,” Mr. McCarthy said. “Democrats often dismiss Republicans as being disinterested in addressing global climate change — this is just false.”
House Republicans point to legislation introduced within their Energy Innovation Agenda. The bills make energy easier to transport, invest in new technology to capture greenhouse gases and expand the use of nuclear power — a resource used to generate carbon-free electricity.
Mr. Biden announced soon after taking office that the U.S. would re-enter the Paris agreement that sets a goal of limiting the increase in global average temperature to no more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
The Biden administration is also reportedly prepping a sweeping executive order to mobilize the federal government on climate-related risks to the financial system and government agencies.
Mr. Milloy said it’s unlikely that countries such as China will commit to meaningful benchmarks on carbon emissions — and hit them — no matter what they’re saying publicly.
“China’s goal is to be the lone global superpower by 2049. Joe Biden‘s goal is to what, be carbon neutral?” he said with a chuckle. “The whole thing is just nuts.”