WASHINGTON — One year ago, Joe Biden marked his first Earth Day as president by convening world leaders for a virtual summit on global warming that even Russian President Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping attended. Biden used the moment to nearly double the United States’ goal for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, vaulting the country to the front lines in the fight against climate change.
But setbacks have hampered progress in the months since. Biden’s most sweeping proposals remain stalled on Capitol Hill despite renewed warnings from scientists that the world is hurtling toward a dangerous future marked by extreme heat, drought and weather.
In addition, Russia’s war in Ukraine has reshuffled the politics of climate change, leading Biden to release oil from the nation’s strategic reserve and encourage more drilling in hopes of lowering sky-high gas prices that are emptying American wallets.
It’s a far cry from the sprint toward clean energy that Biden — and his supporters — envisioned when he took office. Although Biden is raising fuel economy standards for vehicles and included green policies in last year’s bipartisan infrastructure legislation, the lack of greater progress casts a shadow over his second Earth Day as president.
Biden will mark the moment on Friday in Seattle, where he’ll be joined by Gov. Jay Inslee (a fellow Democrat, with a national reputation in climate action), will also be there. Biden will also be visiting Portland, Oregon on Thursday, as part of a tour through the Pacific Northwest region, which has been at the forefront of environmental efforts.
Administration officials defend Biden’s record on global warming while saying that more work is needed.
“Two things can be true at the same time,” said Ali Zaidi, the president’s deputy national climate adviser. “We can have accomplished a lot, and have a long way to go.”
Zaidi acknowledged that “we have headwinds, we have challenges,” but also said the president has “a mandate to drive action forward on this.”
Kyle Tisdel, climate and energy program director with the Western Environmental Law Center, said Biden has not lived up to the promise of last year’s Earth Day summit.