Biden announces executive actions on climate change that fall short of what activists want

Official White House Photo by Erin Scott

(WASHINGTON) — President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced a few executive actions to address climate change, with a focus on helping Americans facing extreme heat — but the steps fall short of the more sweeping measures climate activists are calling for.

While Biden didn’t declare a climate national emergency on Wednesday, as many activists and Democratic lawmakers encouraged him to do, he strongly suggested he would do so soon.

“Now let me be clear, climate change is an emergency and in the coming weeks, I’m going to use the power I have as president to turn these words into formal, official government actions through the appropriate proclamations, executive orders and regulatory power that the president possess,” he said. “When it comes to fighting climate change I will not take no for an answer.”

For now,, the directives largely appear to provide more funding to or otherwise strengthen existing programs.

According to the White House, the president’s latest set of executive actions focus on “protecting communities facing extreme heat with additional FY22 funding for FEMA’s Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program and additional guidance to support the Department of Health and Human Services Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).” The BRIC program offers funding to communities for hazard mitigation, while the LIHEAP provides low-income Americans with assistance in covering their energy costs.

Biden also announced additional actions to boost the domestic offshore wind industry.

Biden made the announcements while visiting a now-defunct coal-fired power plant, called Brayton Point, in Somerset, Massachusetts. The site is expected to be turned into a manufacturing plant that will produce transmission cables for Massachusetts’ offshore wind industry, according to the White House.

“I come here today with a message,” Biden said. “As president I have a responsibility to act with urgency and resolve when our nation faces clear and present danger, and that’s what climate change is about.”

Biden continued, “It is literally, not figuratively, a clear and present danger. The health of our citizens and our communities is literally at stake.”

A White House official told reporters that Wednesday’s actions are a “continuation of the decisive steps on climate that the president has taken since day one.”

The Biden administration’s efforts to continue to pivot the U.S. power sector toward zero-emission energy options, such as off-shore wind, move the country in the right direction but don’t address the larger problem of cutting and reducing current energy-based emissions from the existing fossil fuel industry. Without continuing to cut and reduce current emissions from a range of polluting areas, it will take much more than empowering renewable energy and improving building efficiency to reach Biden’s climate goals.

Wednesday’s announcements come as people across the United States — and around the world — grapple with sweltering temperatures this week. A scorching airmass remains over the majority of the continental U.S. on Wednesday, with a heat dome sitting over the Southwest and Great Plains and triple-digit temperatures stretching throughout the Midwest and up and down the East Coast.

ABC News’ Julia Jacobo and Tracy Wholf contributed to this report.

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