WASHINGTON— Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) introduced a bill today that would require President Joe Biden to use the power he already has to declare a climate emergency under the National Emergencies Act.
Under such a declaration, President Biden could take concrete steps to steer the economy away from climate catastrophe and toward a sustainable, just future. These include reinstating the crude oil exports ban and directing military funds toward wide-scale renewable energy construction. The president can also marshal private industry to develop clean transportation and power generation, creating millions of high-quality jobs.
“This bill heeds the sirens calling for urgent climate action,” said Jean Su, energy justice director and a staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The president already has the power to declare a climate emergency, and now Congress is urging him to use it. Deadly wildfires, storms and heat waves are ravaging the country and the world with increasing intensity. It’s vital for Congress to pass this bill and for President Biden to use his existing emergency powers to move us toward a just and livable planet.”
The bill calls on Biden to invest in large-scale mitigation and resiliency projects, including upgrading infrastructure to expand access to clean energy, especially for communities of color that have been disproportionately impacted by climate harm.
It follows a years-long campaign by nearly 750 climate and environmental justice groups urging the president to declare a climate emergency and fully use the emergency powers that Congress allows in the face of a crisis.
Ahead of Biden’s inauguration, these groups, spearheaded by the Center, presented him with a progressive “Climate President” action plan and model executive order. The Center has been leading the call to reinstate the crude oil export ban under a climate emergency declaration since 2016.
“While President Biden’s climate executive order is a strong first step, declaring a climate emergency will call this crisis what it is and level up the tools we have to confront it,” said Su. “Out of the devastation of the coronavirus and the Trump administration, the president must seize this singular chance to build back a just and clean energy system that both tackles the climate crisis and the wretched racism embedded in it.”
The bill’s introduction follows several prominent political calls for a climate emergency declaration. Last week Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said during a prime-time national television appearance that President Biden should use emergency powers that offer greater flexibility to address the climate crisis. In December Sen. Jeff Merkley issued the same call in the Washington Post.