Joe Biden will not back down from putting climate change at the heart of his legislative agenda, his top environment official has said, despite opposition from within his own party which threatens to derail important bills.
Michael Regan, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, told the Financial Times he believed the US president would not let his climate agenda be derailed by some of the moderate Democrats in Congress.
His comments come after Joe Manchin, the Democratic senator for West Virginia, warned he found it “very, very disturbing” to find references to eliminating fossil fuels in draft texts of a $1tn bipartisan infrastructure bill.
“The president is not backing down from his ambitious agenda,” Regan said. “We are really hopeful that the president is going to use all of the tools in the toolbox — whether it be the bipartisan infrastructure framework, the ‘build back better’ agenda, budget reconciliation, legislation and our regulations.”
The infrastructure deal under negotiation in Congress would include “historic investments in infrastructure and climate adaptation and mitigation strategies”, he added.
Other climate policies such as the Clean Electricity Standard, which aims to help decarbonise electricity by 2035, would be part of a separate budget bill, Regan confirmed.
Biden came to office promising to put tackling climate change at the centre of his agenda. Earlier this year he set a target of cutting US greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by at least 50 per cent by 2030.
Hitting those targets, however, is likely to involve new legislation to boost green energy and make fossil fuels less attractive. The chances of passing such laws through Congress are likely to rest on a handful of Senate Democrats such as Manchin, who has previously defended coal power and criticised Biden’s carbon targets as being “too aggressive”.
As head of the EPA, Regan, who took office in March under Biden, has a central role in helping the US cut emissions through stricter pollution rules enforced by his agency.
New standards for vehicle emissions would be published by the EPA “in the coming weeks”, Regan said, along with rules for heavy duty vehicles.
Further rules on methane, a potent greenhouse gas released during oil and gas production, are due in September. “We’ll be really pushing for deep emission reduction from that,” Regan said, without disclosing details.
In many cases the EPA is reversing decisions made by the Trump administration, which loosened hundreds of environmental rules.
“We’ve taken a look at all of the rollbacks during the previous administration, and where science was not applied, where the rule of law has not been applied, we are reversing those decisions,” said Regan.
He was speaking ahead of the G20 environment ministers’ meeting in Naples on Thursday that will be attended by special presidential envoy John Kerry, where he urged co-operation.
“We are committed to being a strong global leader and partner,” Regan said. “We’re really excited to re-engage with our global counterparts and do our part.”
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