Jul 25, 2022 • 59M

Volts podcast: how Biden can address climate change through executive action

Jean Su & Maya Golden-Krasner from the Center for Biological Diversity run it down.

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Volts is a podcast about leaving fossil fuels behind. I've been reporting on and explaining clean-energy topics for almost 20 years, and I love talking to politicians, analysts, innovators, and activists about the latest progress in the world's most important fight. (Volts is entirely subscriber-supported. Sign up!)
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It now seems fairly clear that no climate legislation is going to pass this Congress before the midterm elections. After the midterms, Democrats are highly unlikely to retain control of both houses, so there likely will not be any federal climate legislation in the US for many years to come. This is, obviously, to the country's immense shame.


That means Biden finds himself in the same situation that Obama ended up in: if he wants anything at all to get done on climate change during his term, he's going to have to do it himself, through executive action. He has already begun announcing some executive orders.

Jean Su & Maya Golden-Krasner.
Jean Su & Maya Golden-Krasner.

However, there is a case to be made that the president has the power to do much, much more. Two senior attorneys at the Center for Biological Diversity — Jean Su, director of CBD’s energy justice program, and Maya Golden-Krasner, deputy director of its Climate Law Institute — have been aggressively making that case for the past three years, laying out a broad suite of actions available to a president and accompanying them with arguments rooting those powers in statutory authority.

They've just released a new report called “The Climate President’s Emergency Powers,” which digs into what it would mean for Biden to declare a state of emergency over climate change and what sort of statutory powers that would grant him.

In this moment of utter legislative failure, I wanted to talk to Su and Golden-Krasner about the kind of things Biden is capable of doing, which actions he ought to prioritize, how he should think about the hostile Supreme Court, and the political optics of governing so aggressively and unilaterally.