If enacted it would be the most significant action the United States has taken to combat climate change.
The centerpiece of a comprehensive domestic policy package Biden (and congressional Democrats) presented Thursday to Congress is the $555 billion climate spending plan. This was just hours before President Obama traveled to Europe for a summit in preparation for the climate meeting in Glasgow.
Biden called it "the most important investment to address the climate crisis ever made, above any other advanced nation in this world."
Although the new framework is unlikely to be passed in a divided Congress, it has reassured anxious Democrats and environmental leaders that a president who made climate action a major focus of his administration will not arrive empty-handed in Glasgow.
Although the plan didn't give Biden all he wanted it to, supporters believe that if it was enacted, it would put the United States on a course to achieve Biden's goal of halving carbon pollution by 2030.
Tiernan Sittenfeld (senior vice president of League of Conservation Voters) said, "It's an actual signal to the world that America is back and demonstrating leader on climate change."
Biden's plan provides more than $300 billion of tax incentives for renewable energy, including wind and solar power. It also includes investments to boost nuclear power and increase the production of advanced materials and batteries.
It would also spend at least $100 Billion to address extreme weather conditions such as hurricanes, wildfires, droughts, and "legacy pollution" in areas that are most affected. The plan also establishes a Civilian Climate Corps to create thousands more jobs, restore streams, and prevent wildfires.
However, a proposal to pay power companies for switching to renewable energy and punish those who do not was dropped by Joe Manchin (D-W.Va), a coal-state senator. Liberal Democrats are hopeful that a fee on methane leaks in oil and gas production will also be included.
An independent research firm, the Rhodium Group, recently found that the passage of a bipartisan bill on infrastructure and the larger climate policy package could reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emission by between 45% and 51% below 2005 levels by 2030.
John Larsen, an expert in energy systems and co-author of this study, stated that "we actually think the U.S. could still put the goal within reach, but it will require a lot more sustained follow-up actions by the executive branch, states after Congress has done, to get the remainder of the way there."
Biden's April climate meeting goal at the White House was called "ambitious", but he said it was better to "aim high and push as hard, when the science tells you that that's what's actually required."
Biden joined the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement on his first day of office, and included the climate target as a requirement. This is an important indicator as Biden works towards his ultimate goal of zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Larsen, who was a former employee of President Barack Obama's Energy Department, said that Biden is "leaning more into climate than any other president" and is ready to continue to make it a top priority throughout his first term. He cited Biden’s actions to join the Paris Agreement, kill Keystone XL's oil pipeline, and pause oil-and gas leasing on federal land among other actions.
Experts said that even without the signing of legislation, Biden's framework demonstrates U.S. leadership in climate change. The U.S. can now say to China and other major polluters, "We set an ambitious target. We have taken the first steps towards achieving that goal. Larsen asked, "What are you going to accomplish?"
Nevertheless, Congress and Biden are under pressure to pass the infrastructure bill as well as the larger domestic package of policies during the two-week climate summit.
"I believe that the U.S. will lose its credibility if it isn't able to show that it has policies in place before (the end of) the climate summit," said Nat Keohane of the independent Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.
Keohane stated that Congress could fail to pass legislation, but it would not be fatal if they did so later in November or December. He stated, "This is the time to get as much legislation passed through Congress now," adding that "everything else will need to be done via regulation." This could be reversed by a future Republican president.
Biden, despite his efforts to reduce carbon emissions, is under pressure from Republicans. They unanimously oppose his climate- and energy plans and blame him for the sharp rise in energy prices, which include gasoline and home heating supplies.
"Because Joe Biden's radical anti energy agenda, people from every corner of the country are paying higher prices to fuel," said Wyoming Senator John Barrasso. He is the top Republican on Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
As the economy reopens after COVID-19 shut downs, energy prices have risen in recent months. Due to strong demand and tight supply chains, Crude Oil prices rose more than 60% in the past year. This has prompted Biden to press Saudi Arabia and other exporters for increased oil production after the pandemic.
Jake Sullivan, national security advisor, said that there is no contradiction between Biden’s climate goals and the demand for more oil imports.
"This is not an easy switch. Sullivan said that we are not going to stop using fossil fuels overnight as he traveled with the president to Europe on Air Force One. "We still need those fossil fuels during this transition period to ensure that our economy works, jobs are created, and families have heat at night.
Denouncing the "certain 'gotcha’ quality" of questions about oil imports, Sullivan stated that the administration should consider the long and short term. He stated, "We must immediately pay attention to energy supply and work towards a net zero future."