John Kerry: US will use executive actions to push through climate plan

Climate envoy says green energy investment not dependent on approval from Congress

FILE PHOTO: John Kerry, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, delivers remarks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 22, 2021. REUTERS/Tom Brenner/File Photo
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US climate envoy John Kerry on Tuesday previewed some of the executive actions President Joe Biden intends to take to advance his goal of halving American carbon emissions by 2030.

This comes amid Republican opposition in Congress to proposed green energy investments.

"This is not dependent exclusively on the Congress," Mr Kerry said in an interview with The Economist, as part of its Sustainability Week USA conference.

“It is going to happen because there are rulemakings that will take place at the Environmental Protection Agency."

While Mr Biden announced his ambitious carbon emissions reduction target at a climate summit he convened in April, the White House has yet to release a comprehensive, integrated plan to meet that goal by 2030.

“That’s a critical period of time,” Mr Kerry said.

"If we don’t reduce carbon emissions enough as a planet between 2020 and 2030, we make holding [global warming to] 1.5°C impossible.

And we also make achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 impossible.”

Mr Biden's proposed $1 trillion infrastructure package includes investment in green energy technology to help curb carbon emissions.

However, Republicans have baulked at the price tag, even after the White House lowered the overall amount from an initial $2tn during weeks of negotiations.

Negotiations aside, Mr Kerry struck an optimistic note on the Biden administration's ability to meet its carbon emissions reduction goal through executive actions and private sector engagement in green energy technology.

“We’re going to have such a massive movement in the economy globally with the amount of money that is being invested and the administrative changes the president is able to put in place without the need to have congressional approval,” he said.

“There’s going to be a momentum created out of that that is going to keep the United States moving in this direction.”

He said the Energy Department, which is run by former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm, is "already moving to embrace new technologies".

Mr Kerry also said the Biden administration is not putting a carbon tax on the table.

Within his first week in office, Mr Biden issued a broad-brush executive order to organise a federal response to the climate crisis and rejoined the Paris Climate Accord, following former president Donald Trump’s withdrawal.

Mr Kerry warded off questions regarding the reliability of US leadership on the issue as the Biden administration attempts to galvanise other countries into making similarly ambitious carbon emissions reduction commitments before the UN climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland this November.

He noted that states and municipalities accounting for 80 per cent of the US population had proceeded to adapt their own laws, despite Mr Trump’s withdrawal from the climate agreement.

“People can take comfort out of the fact that when Donald Trump pulled out of the Paris agreement, the next morning, I stood up with Governor [Andrew] Cuomo, Governor [Kate] Brown, Governor [Jay] Inslee of Washington, and together we announced that while Trump was out, the American people are staying in,” Mr Kerry said.