President Biden said in an interview broadcast Wednesday that “practically speaking” he has already declared a climate emergency, a move that liberal lawmakers and environmentalists continue to advocate to unlock far-reaching executive powers to address global warming.
During an interview with The Weather Channel, Biden initially said, “I’ve already done that,” when asked if he is prepared to declare a climate emergency. He cited his administration’s conservation of land, his decision to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord and roughly $368 billion that was included in the Inflation Reduction Act aimed at building a clean energy economy.
“We’re moving. It is the existential threat to humanity,” Biden of said of climate change in the interview, taped Tuesday overlooking the Grand Canyon in Arizona.
Pressed on whether he’s already declared an emergency, Biden said: “Practically speaking, yes.”
Climate activists argue that declaring a climate emergency would allow the president to halt crude oil exports, limit oil and gas drilling in federal waters, and direct agencies including the Federal Emergency Management Agency to boost renewable-energy sources.
The White House considered such a move last year as Biden’s climate agenda remained stalled in Congress. And the hopes of activists were rekindled last month ahead of a climate-related event at the White House.
At that event, Biden unveiled several measures aimed at addressing the extreme heat affecting large swaths of the nation, including ramped-up enforcement of safety protections for workers in fields such as construction and agriculture who are most vulnerable to high temperatures. But he stopped short of declaring an emergency.
Afterward, several lawmakers and activists argued the move is still needed.
Among them was Tiernan Sittenfeld, senior vice president for government affairs at the League of Conservation Voters, who called Biden’s measures “clearly necessary” but added: “We are obviously in a climate emergency, and we support declaring it.”
After meeting with Biden in his state on Tuesday, Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) issued a statement saying he was grateful for the president’s visit and that he had advocated an “extreme heat disaster” declaration from the Biden administration.
“Just as northeasterners don’t have to deal with flooding on their own and midwesterners don’t have to deal with blizzards on their own, Arizona communities shouldn’t have to deal with our increasingly dangerous summers on their own — and I’ll keep pushing to ensure they don’t have to,” Gallego said.
Gallego is running for the Democratic nomination for Senate in Arizona.
While in that state Tuesday, Biden designated a vast area as a national monument to safeguard it from uranium mining and delivered remarks on his administration’s efforts to invest in clean energy and combat climate change.
During The Weather Channel interview, Biden also spoke out against a Texas law signed by Gov. Greg Abbott (R) in June that overrides labor ordinances statewide that guarantee, among other things, construction workers be given 10-minute breaks to drink water and rest in the shade.
“I think it’s cruel. I think it’s outrageous. I think it’s consistent with what the governor down there is doing,” Biden said.
Biden and Abbott have sparred over immigration issues, including Texas’s use of floating border barriers in the middle of the Rio Grande. The Justice Department sued Texas and Abbott over that issue last month