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'We need to take action now,' Schatz voices support for Biden's executive actions on climate

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, sounded his support Wednesday for President Joe Biden’s decision to use his executive powers to combat climate change and its destructive effects in the United States.

“We are experiencing the climate crisis in real time,” Schatz said in a statement released shortly after Biden’s Wednesday afternoon announcement. “Heatwaves and wildfires around the world are killing people, driving families from their homes, and breaking critical infrastructure. Sea levels are rising. Droughts are shattering records. Extreme weather events are becoming more severe and more frequent. The time for planning is over; we need to take action now.

“While we sort out what can get through Congress, it’s time to use the full force of the executive branch to combat this crisis,” Schatz said. “The president has tons of authority under current law, and I’m glad that he is determined to exercise it. The planet is on fire. We need to be doing everything humanly possible to fight this.”

Speaking at a former coal-fired power plant in Brayton Point, Massachusetts, that was converted to a cable-manufacturing facility to support the offshore wind industry, the president announced a set of executive actions aimed at creating jobs in clean energy, lowering costs for families and protecting communities from the present effects of climate change, including extreme heat and wildfires.

Biden vowed last week to take action with or without Congress’ help after Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., derailed a reconciliation bill that would have addressed energy and climate concerns.

While the president stopped short of declaring a climate emergency, as the Congressional Progressive Caucus has advocated, his new executive actions will provide $2.3 billion in funding for the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities program to help increase resilience to heatwaves, drought, wildfires, flood, hurricanes and other climate-related disasters; broaden the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program to promote distribution of efficient air conditioning equipment, community cooling centers and other means of keeping people in low-income communities cool in extreme heat conditions; and direct the secretary of the interior to advance wind-energy development in waters off the mid- and southern Atlantic Coast and Florida’s Gulf Coast. The president is also proposing the first Wind Energy Areas in the Gulf of Mexico.

“Climate change is literally an existential threat to our nation and to the world,” Biden said. “So my message today is this: Since Congress is not acting as it should … this is an emergency. An emergency. And I will look at it that way.”

Biden said he will announce additional executive actions in the weeks to come.