Biden’s State of the Union Climate Points Short But Crucial

Biden, Harris Johnson SOTU 2024

WASHINGTON, DC, March 8, 2024 (ENS) – President Joe Biden entered the House of Representatives Thursday night to deliver the final State of the Union address for this term with a brilliant smile and a long list of accomplishments to promote. The environment was barely there, mentioned just twice, but Biden’s two comments were strong.

“We are also making history by confronting the climate crisis, not denying it,” the President said. “I don’t think any of you think there’s no longer a climate crisis. At least I hope you don’t.”

President Joe Biden brings up what his administration is doing to reverse the climate crisis during his 2024 State of the Union address to Congress. March 7, 2024, House of Representatives, Washington, DC (Screengrab from video courtesy The White House)

In the most widely watched speech he will give before the election in November, Biden differentiated himself from former President Donald Trump, a climate denier who will likely be his opponent in the 2024 presidential election. Biden said, “I’m taking the most significant action ever on climate in the history of the world.”

“I am cutting our carbon emissions in half by 2030,” he continued. “Creating tens of thousands of clean-energy jobs, like the I.B.E.W. workers [International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers] building and installing 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations, said Biden, a longtime union supporter.

The President reminded the country that his administration is in the process of, “conserving 30 percent of America’s lands and waters by 2030.”

President Biden was addressing Congressmembers of both political parties, members of his Cabinet, Supreme Court Justices, and guests of First Lady Dr. Jill Biden that included Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, and United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain.

“I’m taking action on environmental justice, fence-line communities smothered by the legacy of pollution,” said the President. He has directed his Cabinet members, who head the agencies that make up the executive branch, to ensure that a substantial portion of allocated funds go to the communities most in need.

“And, patterned after the Peace Corps and America Corps,” Biden said, ending the first climate remark, “I launched the Climate Corps to put 20,000 young people to work in the forefront of our clean energy future. I’ll triple that number in a decade.”

Guests in the viewing box of First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, center 2nd from left; as they applaud Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, center, who stands beside the Second Gentleman of the United States, Doug Emhoff, husband of Vice President Kamala Harris. March 7, 2024, House of Representatives, Washington, DC (Screengrab from video courtesy The White House)

President Biden’s speech to Congress averaged 32.23 million viewers across 14 broadcast and cable outlets, almost five million more viewers than the 2023 State of the Union.

Abigail Dillen, president of the nonprofit environmental law organization Earthjustice, called it a “rousing speech that underscored his ambition to tackle the biggest challenges facing our country.”

“President Biden has made unprecedented investments in climate and environmental justice,” Dillen said. “From legislative victories like the Inflation Reduction Act to the recent pause on new approvals for LNG export projects, President Biden has successfully turned his promises in actions. This administration’s policies are already transforming communities across the country and helping us meet our climate goals while advancing environmental justice.”

But, says Dillen, there is much work ahead. “As we face a worsening climate crisis and an extreme right-wing Supreme Court majority that threatens our rights, livelihoods, and our government’s ability to fight modern challenges, it is essential to build on these successes with continued action.”

“We urge President Biden to harness the full power of the federal government to rapidly disburse Inflation Reduction Act funding and ensure important funding for clean energy, environmental justice, and jobs reaches the communities that need them the most,” Dillen said.

“Additionally, the administration must quickly finalize new environmental protections that reverse the most egregious harms of the Trump administration. These safeguards are critical to conserving our public lands and biodiversity, protecting our right to clean water, and giving us the tools to quickly build out clean energy infrastructure to address climate change. President Biden is right. We can’t rely on ancient ideas of the past. And we cannot wait,” Dillen said.

President Joe Biden greets members of Congress, his Cabinet, Supreme Court Justices and guests with a smile, March 7, 2024, House of Representatives, Washington, DC (Screengrab from video courtesy The White House)

Sierra Club spokesman Jonathan Berman said, “We can and must seize the future that President Biden, his administration, and Sierra Club’s millions of members and supporters have fought for. Together, we can and will build an economy for us, and build – and protect – a democracy that represents all of us.”

A Latino environmental group launched a Spanish-language TV ad linking the Biden administration’s climate initiatives to economic growth, jobs, clean air and lower energy costs, important issues for Hispanic voters ahead of the 2024 elections. Climate Power En Accion’s ad premiered on Univision during Biden’s State of the Union address and will continue to run.

“The clean energy plan is delivering real progress in our communities. Climate action is connected to every issue in our lives from our jobs, energy costs, health, and much more,” Antonieta Cádiz, deputy executive director of Climate Power En Acción, said.

The 30-second ad focuses on linking jobs, clean air and lower energy costs. Centering on clean energy, the ad calls the Biden administration’s climate push “historic progress.”

“Almost 260,000 new jobs have already been created to fuel our future,” says the ad’s narrator. “The evidence is clear: the Clean Power Plan does work, not only for the environment but for the well-being of our families.”

The economic-environmental link is significant because recent polling shows that Latinos are prioritizing economic concerns over the environment, an issue that’s historically been a top-five concern for Hispanics.

Antonieta Cadiz, deputy executive director, Climate Power En Acción, undated (Photo courtesy Antonieta Cadiz via LinkedIn)

According to an UnidosUS poll released in November, climate and the environment was a top-three priority for just nine percent of Latino voters, while inflation and the cost of living was a top-three issue for 54 percent of voters. The poll found that only six percent of Latinos are climate change deniers, and 48 percent believe climate change is a serious problem.

Climate Power En Acción says the ad will serve to keep the issue front and center, confronting the expected spreading of misinformation in Spanish. “Given the rampant levels of disinformation targeting Spanish-dominant Latinos, En Acción wanted to set the record straight and keep them informed about this important progress,” said Cádiz.

Then, at the very end of his State of the Union address, President Biden put in just a few more words about the climate while stating his vision of what the United States will become.

“To lead America, the land of possibilities, you need a vision for the future and what can and should be done. Tonight you’ve heard mine,” the President said. “I see a future where defending democracy, you don’t diminish it. I see a future where we restore the right to choose and protect other freedoms, not take them away.”

“I see a future where the middle class finally has a fair shot and the wealthy have to pay their fair share in taxes,” he told the assembled Congress members, government members, and guests.

“I see a future where we save the planet from the climate crisis and our country from gun violence.”

Biden said, “Above all, I see a future for all Americans. I see a country for all Americans. And I will always be a president for all Americans because I believe in America. I believe in you, the American people.”

Featured image: Biden’s joke at the start of his State of the Union address to Congress brought rare smiles to all faces: President Joe Biden, front; Vice President Kamala Harris, rear left; Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, a Louisiana Republican, March 7, 2024, House of Representatives, Washington, DC (Screengrab from video courtesy The White House)

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